What Does a Nutritionist Do?
Over the last few months, I've come to realize that there are a lot of people that may not really even know what a nutritionist does.
I've had several interactions with an individual where I explained that I am a nutritionist and to my shock the question I often get is: "So you sell like supplements and stuff?"
Insert shocked emoji face here, or just imagine it.
The first time I was asked that question, I was a bit confused and also offended and my immediate response was: "Oh no, I'm not a sales person, I am an educator!"
And so, I've come to realize that I need to educate the public on what it is that a nutritionist does.
I feel a little nerdy saying that I am a scientist. But in order to work effectively as a nutritionist, it requires a solid understanding of actual science on topics of human physiology, anatomy, biochemistry and the interaction of foods, nutrients, supplements, and medications within our bodies and the effects on our health. It's a field that includes a wide base on knowledge to help understand the processes of our bodies and how foods affect our biochemistry and physiology and ultimately our health.
So, let's just stick with educator. It is my job to learn the science of the above mentioned and to present the material and information to clients in a way that is not only easily understood but can also be seamlessly incorporated into their daily lives to achieve a desired results and overall improved health.
Now, this process of education may sometimes lead me to recommend a certain supplement to a client, but that recommendation will be very specific to the individual. Preferably, if the desired nutrients can be taken in through real foods in the diet, that will always be the most effective method. Supplements are used as a last resort to bridge gaps that cannot easily be covered from the foods of our daily diet. My word of advice would be to use caution when working with providers, health coaches or nutritionists that heavily rely on recommending or selling supplements as a major component of their treatment approach.
Within the field of education, there are so many areas that allow for further focus and specialization. The same holds true for nutrition as well. Each stage of life requires a different approach to nutrition as do different disease conditions as do different body composition goals. Child nutrition differs from nutrition for elderly and nutrition therapy for diabetes differs for therapy for kidney disease or nutrition for performance athletes.
It's a huge field that can be applied to many different aspects of life, whether it be for athletic performance, disease management, weight loss, weight gain, general health or many other health goals. Nutritional science is a method of treatment based on science, hence the term of Medical Nutrition Therapy. It's a powerful tool and should be exercised with caution even by those qualified. Nutrition science is also presenting with an ever growing body of science so we are still discovering new things as to how nutrition relates to our physical and mental health.