We all know – at least on the conceptual level – that we should eat better, move more and take better care of ourselves to live a healthy, happy life. So why don’t we?
The simple answer is that life seems to get in the way. We are all managing never ending to-do lists, juggling jobs and the family commitments, and it always seems like we just don’t have the time or energy to dedicate to this business of “being healthy”. Or simply we just can’t be bothered.
And so convenience usually wins but It comes at a price. We are silently getting sicker. It might not always be obvious right away or it might just be the health niggles that bother us but we have learnt to cope with like IBS or other tummy troubles, fatigue, brain fog, haywire hormones. It might be that we suffer from depression, anxiety, forgetfulness, ADHD, mental health problems; conditions that we think we have no control over, and we would never in million years connect with what we eat and how much we move (link to food-mood).
What I want to share with you today is that the food that you eat matters more that you could possibly imagine. Food feeds your brain and your body. In many cases, by making changes to your diet and lifestyle, the symptoms of some of these conditions can be improved so markedly that there is a really profound shift in how you experience life. By improving your diet and changing your lifestyle you may be able to transform your mood and brain function and feel alert, focused, happy, energetic and mentally clear.
What is Nutritional Therapy?
Nutritional therapy is often referred to as “alternative medicine” but thanks to such big names like Dr Rangan Chatterjee, Dr Micheal Mosely or Dr Mark Hyman the science of food as medicine is getting the recognition it deserves.
Essentially, nutritional therapy practitioners apply the latest hypotheses and research in nutrition and health sciences to you and your symptoms and they come up with a diet, lifestyle and (sometimes) supplement plan to support those needs. They might bring in some coaching to help you put the ideas into practice in a meaningful way or break through whatever barriers have held you back in the past.
Nutritional Therapy is a very personalised service. You might have heard a term ‘biochemically unique’ which means that everyone is different and there isn’t a single way of eating that is right for everyone. For example you might have problems with concentration, suffer from mood swings and fatigue while someone else might suffer from depression, anxiety and brain fog. You might have a history of antibiotics and be sensitive to gluten whereas the other person might be living on ready-made meals because they are an overachiever and work really long hours. The point is that there are hundreds of different permutations here. We are all different in terms of our genetic predisposition, underlying imbalances and personal circumstances.
And the fact is that your DNA, previous medical history, and any current symptoms as well as what you like and don’t like, not to mention your lifestyle are all important when a nutritionist creates a plan for you. Nutritional Therapy is an approach personalised just for you. A nutritional practitioner may also run some laboratory testing which further informs your nutrition plan. He or she may also work with supplements that are targeted to a specific condition. That takes both time and skill.
Why doesn't everyone see a Nutritionist if the results are so good?
It’s unfortunate that so many people don’t understand what a huge effect a personalised food and lifestyle programme can have on the symptoms they have or how they experience their life.
At this day and age there is so much information available online (often contradictory), that it’s really hard to know what is the right approach for you. Most of the doctors – even those being trained today – have no training in nutrition and will not advice their patients what they should be eating or how they might integrate the theory into their lives. Moreover they are time restricted and the 10 min that they have for their patients will almost always result in a prescription as a solution.
If you think about it: nearly all medications merely suppress symptoms. Only very few are an actual cure – antibiotics come to mind here. The exclusively pharmacological approach conventional medicine so often employs does nothing to uncover the root causes. The most important question is never being asked. Metformin lowers blood glucose – but why is it high in the first place? Statins lower cholesterol – but why is it elevated? Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) numb pain – but why are you in pain?
Some doctors – like dr Chatterjee, or dr Hyman – who realise the power of food and personalised nutrition additionally train in a powerful field called Functional medicine. This is a framework for considering that the symptoms you are experiencing are a result of imbalances in your body and, rather than treat the specific symptoms themselves, nutrition professionals try to understand the root cause of the problem and base their programme around that.
What happens in a nutrition consultation?
Your first consultation will last 90 minutes. You will have been asked to complete and send back a detailed nutritional therapy questionnaire before our first meeting. During the session, we’ll go into your medical history, your health goals and any other challenges you’re facing, what you generally eat, what you like to eat, what you hate to eat and how you have to eat (on the bus, in a rush at your desk, and so on). There’s no judgement and anything you share with me is kept in confidence.
Nutritional therapy sessions are usually sold in programmes that run over 10-12 weeks. One-off sessions are usually unhelpful and even though you may increase your knowledge and awareness of what is contributing to your symptoms it is very unlikely that you will make the required changes long term. Having multiple sessions in place will help you implement the programme, make changes at a pace that suits you, and to deal with any challenges or questions that come up along the way.
What if I already know what to do?
Knowing what to do is only a part of the solution; staying motivated and committed to making changes is the hard part. The best way to stay the course is to have a buddy or coach who will keep you accountable and will call you out when you start to go off piste. I’d say this is the single biggest thing that makes the difference between reaching your goal and actually staying there. That’s where health coaching comes in. It keeps you accountable and will ensure all that good work doesn’t go to waste.
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And discover how addressing the underlying imbalances and modifying your diet can drastically transform your mood and help you once again feel alert, focused, happy, energetic, unstressed and mentally sharp. Don’t put up with your symptoms any longer, take action today.