I learned many things in nutrition school, and eventually I realized that most of them supported a very important underlying and unifying approach. To encourage and develop long-term beneficial nutrition changes, a nutrition consultant’s goal must be this: teach clients to have a healthy relationship with food. One technique I like to employ in my own life as well as when I work with clients is to direct the focus of meal time on the food you are eating. Don’t eat on the run, barely tasting the food you put in your mouth. Instead plan for meal time to be a relaxing time devoted to the enjoyment of the food you are eating. A well-known Nutrition Consultant, Erin Livers, suggested that clients sit down for each and every meal. Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet on the ground. Focus on the food and eliminate as many distractions as possible. Turn off your cell phone and set it aside. Soft, relaxing music might be helpful, and if the TV is blaring a reality-show conflict or news stories of catastrophes that have happened or are about to, meal time should only proceed after you have turned off the TV! Do not fiddle with your computer, IPad or smartphone while you are eating. Keep your focus on the food in front of you. If others are joining you, try to keep the conversation light and focused on the foods and flavors you are all sharing. Talk about what’s good about the meal and share thoughts about what other cooking tips or food inclusions might produce an even better meal next time. Avoid making food the enemy since this almost always leads to an unhealthy relationship with our food.
Inevitably we all identify foods which must be removed from our diets because their long-term effects on our bodies are simply not healthful. When this happens we must watch our thinking very carefully. If the removed food is one we very much enjoyed, there will be a natural tendency to think we are being deprived. If we buy into that thinking, we will likely have a difficult time consistently excluding the food from our diet regardless of its negative nutritional consequences. How we think about the purpose of the food we eat must be changed. Food’s fundamental purpose is to nourish us. Without any nourishment, there would not be any “us” to think about anything! Food can nourish us well or poorly, and each client must be taught to see that a well-nourished body functions so much better than does a poorly nourished one. If you seek a healthier you by making conscious choices about your diet, it simply means you want to emphasize and embrace a diet which will nourish your body well while avoiding dietary choices that treat your body poorly. A well-nourished body will have the capacity to demonstrate the loving nutritional choices that have been made for it. This will help the client see that the effect of a food is the best criterion by which to judge a food as either good or bad. If this thinking is applied regularly by the client, there will no longer be a sense of deprivation associated with an excluded food. The client will see that whatever attraction that food held--texture, salt, sugar, aroma--did not provide a sensible way to evaluate the need for that food. Food choices made with a correct understanding of the food’s effect upon the body will become easier and more natural.
Stress is detrimental to health, and stress makes it hard for the body to digest foods in a healthful manner. Reducing our stress around food and instead finding joy in food is one way to successful long-term health benefits. I as a nutritionist I have had some clients who were willing to pay me any amount of money to supply them with daily meals and advice. But I realized that most of those clients weren’t willing to invest personally in their own health or to love themselves. I realized that I could not actually help those people because they weren’t interested in long-term goals; they were looking for short-term, quick fixes. Nutrition is about overall health and not just about weight loss or temporary benefits. Success will follow when you find ways to enjoy and love food while still making healthful choices.