This is geared toward nutritionists, doctors, personal trainers, and anyone else who makes a living helping people with health and fitness...
I seem to go back and forth between long periods of sticking to a very good diet and short bursts of...well...not. I just finished my MS in nutrition and will be starting a consulting business soon. I suppose I'm writing this because I'm having a bit of a crisis of conscience. I'm not as lean as I'd like to be, and sometimes I worry that people will wonder why "this fat girl" is billing herself as a nutritionist and weight loss coach. Now, mind you, I am not "fat," but I'm sure you can see where I'm coming from. I'm not out of shape, but I'm not exactly an Oxygen cover model, either. I do pretty darn good for myself at the gym, but that's not necessarily reflected in my body comp. (Working on this. And I firmly agree with the discussions on PH recently about females and body comp. I'm not looking for washboard abs, believe me. But I could definitely stand to get rid of some body fat.)
I've always had a poor self image, despite excelling at most things I've pursued. (My black thumb not withstanding. I seem to be the only person on Earth capable of killing a basil plant. Sigh.) I know this stems from that -- an overall lack of confidence. I don't doubt the knowledge I've gained and everything I do know about nutrition and health. Even as a newbie practitioner who recognizes I have a lot to learn and will no doubt get a whole new perspective after a while of working with clients, I feel confident that at the very least, I know way more than the average Joe on the street. Maybe that's what I should focus on. I dunno. Look at Dr. Weil. I'm not saying I agree with him on things, just pointing out that he doesn't necessarily look like the picture of health and some people hang on his every word.
That being said, because I'm right now coming out of one my not-so-good dietary diversions, I'm feeling like, who the heck am I to tell other people what to do, when I can't even get my own ducks in a row? Obviously, the solution to this is to get my ducks in a row. (And I'm trying.) And I do admit, even on my worst days, I feel like I'm still ahead of what a SAD eater would consider "bad." (For example, lately I have been eating ridiculous amounts of peanut butter. And not even the natural kind, but regular ol' Jif, complete with added sugar and hydrogenated soybean oil. I KNOW. I know better than that! Yet I still pick up the spoon, stick it in the jar, and bring it to my mouth. Ad nauseum.) And I've been having way too many "just a piece" and "just a bite" of all kinds of stuff. (And no, it's not that I've been buying any of it - I at least know enough to leave it on the store shelves where it belongs. Most of it is my housemates' stuff. They buy a ton of crap, have one piece, and leave the rest sitting around until I finally cave and have some. If only I could get back to the place where I'm on a good tear and that stuff becomes invisible to me. Those are good times -- when I can look at that stuff and not be the least bit interested.)
I've been telling myself that I don't have to be 100% perfect to still "know my sh*t," if you will. If anything, I feel like this will make me a more empathetic practitioner, because I fully recognize how difficult making good choices can be -- even for someone who's been at it for years. Sometimes the office donuts just yell too damn loud, and to hell with however bad the flour, sugar, and God-only-knows-what-kind of oil are.
I dunno. I'm rambling. Sorry for that.
Anyone have any advice? All of this is easier said than done, but here's what I tell myself -- and what I plan on incorporating into my advertising and the talks I plan to give around town:
- Health is not all about being "thin." (How many people do we all know who look fine on the outside but have MS, fibromyalgia, are on prescription antacids, etc? And when you get up close, they in fact do not look fine, because you can see their hair is dry and limp, their skin is sallow, they have bags under their eyes, rotting teeth, etc.)
And those things, at least, I feel good about, because my skin and hair are great, and I'm not kidding when I say I haven't been sick in about 6 years. (Maybe one day of a cold coming on, but the next day it's gone.) I have no fatigue, no brain fog, no chronic pain -- none of the other things people would (hopefully) seek a nutritionist for.
I dunno. Does anyone have any advice for me? I know the simple answer is to just get my act together. And maybe I could stand to relax my standards just a little, too. (Not to say that it's okay for me to eat junk regularly, but to understand that yes, I want to set the best possible example for my clients, but it doesn't make me a "bad nutritionist" or a total fraud if I slip up. Just need to keep those slips very few and far between.)
Somewhat related threads:
asked byAmy_B_ (8014)
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on July 24, 2012
at 05:46 PM
As a former personal trainer and currently a nutrition coach, I think my confidence is the main thing that attracts clients to me. My confidence comes from being in integrity, not being "perfect."
I am certainly not perfect, but I walk my talk--meaning, I don't give someone advice that I am not taking, KWIM?
For example, I eat rice crackers and organic tortilla chips on occasion, so I comfortably recommend gluten-free to most of my clients, based on their symptoms, but I don't recommend grain-free across the board, unless a specific client would benefit.
If you are eating Jif, then you aren't in your integrity when you advise your clients to avoid PUFAs and legumes.
Bottom-line, you need to feel good about yourself. So if you are engaging in behavior that makes you feel bad about yourself, either stop the behavior or decide that it's OK for you and stop beating yourself up.
on July 24, 2012
at 06:02 PM
(I killed a basil plant).
You already know, as you stated, more than the average bear. It's going to take time to get your confidence. As you start working with clients, they aren't going to know you have self-doubt unless you show them; don't show them. :) Easier said than done, I know. Look at your career as a constant learning experience. You will be teaching people, and there are learning opportunities around every corner when you are teaching! It's fantastic!
You're going to meet clients who will inspire you, just as you will inspire others. You're going to learn about yourself as you learn about your clients. You're going to learn new science, you're going to see old science debunked. You are stepping out and it's going to be fantastic.
Trust in yourself. You don't need to be perfect. I don't want to talk to a perfect health coach. I want to talk to a human one.
on July 24, 2012
at 06:07 PM
There are no "experts" when it comes to health and fitness. All there is, is just another guy or gal with another opinion. The body is so damn complex and to assert that you can "guarantee" weight loss, fitness, or health with your "system" is just stupid.
I know, I used to be a personal trainer, for marital artists mainly, and I was pretty good at it. But I also had a lot of failures with people bc there were so many things to take into consideration.
Even the paleo/primal gurus(Sisson, Wolf,etc) have had failures bc there is no one size fits all approach. Doesn't work. We always hear about the testimonials but what about all the people that they couldn't help?
I stopped being a PT bc it just wasn't for me anymore-I went in a different direction altogether for my own personal reasons. I'm of the opinion that those that love fitness and nutrition should do it for the sake of tinker with that portion, and stop trying to impress one's knowledge onto others. I think many PT's feel this need to support an image and I just don't get it.
Most people don't want to look like magazine cover models-really- most, especially the overweight just want to reclaim their health and some semblance of control in their life and if you can help them do that, well I think that's a job well done.
Screw all that doubt and comparing yourself-Dr Weil? Really? He's as bad as Oz-both are trying to sell you something and most certainly are being honest about that.
Just be honest with yourself about your motivations and people will flock to you bc you are genuine and you have a broad knowledge base that they can tap into and hopefully learn to take better care of themselves without you.
on July 24, 2012
at 05:48 PM
As an overtly successful professional (albeit in an unrelated field) who also happens to excel at excess self criticism, I'd suggest you're doing much better than you seem to give yourself credit for. On here, you give honest, insightful, caring responses. You may not be perfect, but your desire to help will lead to your impact on those around you.
on July 24, 2012
at 05:40 PM
My advice...you have to practice what you preach.
Identify how you want to help your patients. My guess is that each of your patients will have different needs and goals. Some will want to lose some weight, some will want to manage a disease, etc. So you need to know how to help them achieve their goals which, I assume, you nailed down in school. I also think you need to know what working towards each of those goals feels like.
If you have never had to lose weight and you are trying to help someone else you will never understand their struggle. If you have never had to eliminate a food group to manage a disease (ie; celiacs) than you just won't get their struggle.
I suggest you do a Whole30. It will allow you to reset and get your ducks in a row and it will also give you the opportunity to see what your patients will struggle with when you say "ok, you have to cut out soda and cheesey poofs and..." When they hem and haw you can say "I know it will be tough, I have done it! I used to struggle with a not so clean diet myself and this is how I overcame that obstacle...." Letting your patients know about your struggles and your strategies to overcome them is huge. No body expects their doctor or health care provider to be perfect, the do expect them to be honest, open and empathetic.
If you have walked down the same road as your patients you will have a lot of street cred. It's kind of like the pediatrician with no kids telling people how to get their 12 month old to sleep through the night. You just don't know until you have been there, ya know?
Do a Whole30, reset yourself and give yourself te opportunity to know the struggles your patients will face and learn how to help them overcome their struggles.
on July 25, 2012
at 12:10 AM
You should keep in mind that very few, if any, of your clients will follow your recommendations even as well as you do. They're going to cheat on their diets and miss workouts, and you're not a "fraud" just because sometimes you do, too.
Progress doesn't require perfection, it just requires taking more steps forward than back. Looking at trainer or nutritionist as an example of an unattainable ideal is discouraging. If, on the other hand, your clients see you as someone who has made, and continues to make, progress in spite of struggles, they will be encouraged to do the same.
on July 24, 2012
at 06:51 PM
I can't really give you a straight forward advice since life is usually not straight forward. And I'm in a similar situation: Newbie personal trainer trying to learn the trade and look the part. All I can give you is a perspective. And this is how your situation looks to me:
You are struggling with yourself about being legit, about being the right person to help people. But that shows me that you got the foundation right, that you care. Every thing else lies within your reach: Knowledge and experience can be acquired, with that comes more confidence and bad eating habits (which you are already targeting) can be corrected.
True, you need to deal with your issues but you seem to be smart, so you probably will. Still you already have the tools to help people. Like you said, you do know more than the average Joe. And if you want to help and can cause change in a person's life for the better, by all means girl, do so.
on July 24, 2012
at 05:51 PM
Amy, not sure what to tell you.
I really do not like Steve Jobs and he is my anti-hero, but here is one quote from him that might help you: "Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use."
So here is my advice to you:
Imagine that tomorrow is the last day on earth. What would be one thing you regretted not doing career-wise? What is your heart's true passion? If you really want to help people with weight loss - do it. Chances are, you will be better than many other nutritionists out there, and maybe you will become one of the best.
It sounds like you are very reflective and it is a good thing. You will keep learning and researching on a daily basis. There is so much new research out there right now - it is amazing!
There must be something you are good at. I am sure that deep down inside you know what you are good at. So you have killed a few basil plants - who did not? I have a rule for my plants - only the strongest survives and gets rewarded by getting watered.
You don't need to be super thin to be a weight-loss coach. In fact, if you look normal, people will be able to trust you more. It is easier to talk about weight loss to someone who does not resemble an anorexic. Plus you will know exactly what your clients go through when they tell you about their struggles.
on July 25, 2012
at 03:11 AM
I don't think you have to be perfect. I think it is better that you are not. I think it can help you relate to your clients. It is okay not to be 100% Paleo. As long as you are 90% and don't over do your 'cheats', you will be okay. So go to the nice restaurant, eat some ice cream, have your Jif...whatever...as long as it is occasional and in moderation. I think that is a message that will be well received by your clients. Nobody likes a zealot preaching from on high asking for perfection. Perfection is the ideal...for the rest of us, there is reality. Enjoy reality.
on July 25, 2012
at 12:06 AM
I'm attending veterinary school in a few months... And lately, I feel like I don't believe in anything veterinary school has to offer.
Well, I guess I will get my DVM, and study holistic/naturopathic/paleo approaches after veterinary school.
It's a big dilemma for me!
on July 24, 2012
at 10:51 PM
Amy Im just worried about you here. By that, I mean I think you are already in a position to be able to give people a lot of excellent advice and consultation based on your knowledge, your education and personal experience. That said - you feel like a fraud and you don't feel "authentic" or totally honest. If that continues, and you are not "practicing what you preach", I think you will end up feeling even worse about yourself.
I just don't want you to set yourself up for feeling even worse and ashamed. Shame is a really powerful and can cause depression and an increase in behaviors you want to eliminate.
Just work on the things that are still not great in your own diet and lifestyle and you will be in a better position to help others.
You will be ready soon, I think and when you are - you will be excellent!!