As a dietitian, I get a lot of questions from friends, family and acquaintances about nutrition. Many of the questions seem pretty straight forward, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the answers are simple at all! My answer normally begins with “well it depends” or “maybe." Alternatively, I may ask several follow up questions before giving a response.
Straight forward questions don't always get straight forward answers
If you went to your local car mechanic and asked “why won’t my car run?” they’re not just going to rattle off an answer. They’re going to inspect several parts of the car, ask you questions and maybe even look up what they did to your car last if you were just in the shop recently. Once they figure out exactly what’s going on, they’ll tell you what your car needs and might give you some different options on how to fix it, or perhaps offer tips to prevent the problem from happening in the future. If your mechanic blindly just did the exact same thing to every car that came in, they may or may not fix the problem and you may have paid for a service you didn’t need.
Don’t let your car get better care than your own body! I’m not sure why people settle for diet plans they googled or a diet their friend told them about. Everyone is different and has unique needs. Just because something worked for your friend doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. There’s also no single solution to a problem.
You need a nutrition plan specific to you! If you meet with a dietitian, he or she will do a complete assessment of your medical history, goals and current eating habits to help you figure out what works for YOU.
If I have a long day full of appointments, I’m not going to tell any of my patients to do the exact same thing. Everyone has a different plan and a different way to get to their healthiest selves. Even when two people have the same disease, they will not be provided the same information. I’m always telling my patients with diabetes “everyone’s diabetes is different”. Also, most people don’t have just one nutrition-related medical problem, and sometimes the diet plan for one medical issue might contradict the diet plan for another one. That’s why it’s important to meet with a dietitian to come up with a plan that makes sense for all of you, not just part of you.
A 2018 graphic from the Association of UK Dietitians explains “What is your dietitian thinking about?” It shows that your dietitian is assessing all of the following before providing you any advice:
Age and gender
Family & lifestyle
Religion & beliefs
Your body size
Taste & eating habits
Symptoms & conditions
Your mental wellbeing
I can say that I think about several other things as well such as your personal goals, time constraints, finances, diet history, and motivation level. Even a “customized” diet such as WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) that gives each person a different allotment of points doesn’t consider the vast majority of these things.
Go beyond Google and photocopied diet plans from your doctor's office. You deserve better – you deserve an individualized approach!