I will now start working with real people.

As a soon to be nutritionist, my time has come to take on and manage a client base of 12 people, assessing and advising and following up with them in order to graduate.

I am both nervous and excited about this. Dealing with real people is by far more difficult than any test – this is someone’s real life and real health. As a semi-perfectionist, I know the time and energy I am going to put into these 12 people will be borderline obsessive.

I have no doubt in my mind this is the field I want to practice in. Soon I will be taking it a step further by combining holistic sport nutrition with athletic training.

When I started going to school and most of my reading became textbook and technical reading, I always imagined that as soon as I had a break I would get back to my “regular” books. This last weekend I had a break. But the things I picked up to read were still about nutrition. And still highly technical. I am finding that the further I advance in my classes, the more the line between work and pleasure is starting to blur. I simply love doing this.

I recently stopped working with my own nutritionist for a variety of reasons. I am no longer happy with his approach to food and the way he runs his practice. The experience inspired me to come up with my own Ten Commandments of a Nutritionist for when I start to practice on my own:

MY 10 COMMANDMENTS

1. Thou shalt not simplify food.

Food is complicated. And even further complicated by the modifications that we as humans have made to it. I hate these health articles that come out in mainstream magazines, trying to simplify everything to the point of becoming misleading. Food has so many facets and aspects to it. And you should never write a health article from a single source or study. That’s just bad journalism. For every study out there, there are five others saying the opposite thing.

2. Thou shalt not complicate food.

Food is simple. Real food from the earth is tangible and true and unchanging (assuming we don’t mess with it). My job is to demystify nutrition and help my clients weed though the confusing messages they are bombarded with. I need to teach them to be savvy and how to tell the difference between a sales pitch and a genuinely healthy food source.

3. Thou shalt not generalize.

Each client should be approached as an individual. What works for one person will not always work for another. In fact, it probably won’t. People have different tolerances, different preferences, and different nutritional needs. That’s the whole reason there is a market for nutritionists. Otherwise there would just be a guidebook somewhere and everyone would follow it. People are different, and they should be treated as unique individuals.

4. Thou shalt not speak in extremes.

This was actually one of the reasons I decided to stop working with my nutritionist. He had a tendency to declare certain foods “unlimited,” which I think is misleading. He was a strong advocate of a high protein diet and told me that it’s not possible to eat too much protein, which I now know is absolutely untrue. It’s definitely possible, and the effects are dire.

ANYTHING – even a good thing – can be bad in extremes. Good nutrition is all about balance, and a good nutritionist should understand that.

5. Thou shalt always consider a client’s background.

By this I mean making special considerations towards a client’s culture and upbringing and conditioning. My clients are not going to give up their cultural and religious practices, so I need to be open to working with them within those parameters and coming up with changes that are realistic.

My partner worked with my ex-nutritionist for over a year. For that entire time this nutritionist kept trying to convince him to drink shakes. In our culture, the idea of drinking a meal is ridiculous. Meals are meant to be eaten around a table for hours and hours. It’s a very social experience, and my partner is a talker so it DOES take him hours to finish eating. Blending everything he needs into a shake and chugging it down would rob him of this important cultural (and not unhealthy) experience.

When my partner decided to stop working with this nutritionist, I tried to continue implementing changes to instead support our culture. The idea behind the shakes was to get him to eat the right nutrients. But this can also be done with real food and real cooking, which is what he is now working towards.

6. Thou shalt respect your client.

A client should never feel like they are your paycheck. I strongly believe that the key to my success will lie in the way that I treat my clients. I need to respect their time by being prepared and giving them the best, most relevant information according to how much they are willing to take on.

I also need to respect my client’s money by understanding that they could spend it on a million other things besides me. But they have chosen to invest in their health, and in me personally.

The way that I see it, when a client hires me, s/he is paying for me to be on their team, based on the understanding that I will bend over backwards and do whatever it takes to make sure my team never loses. I am not successful unless they are.

7. Thou shalt never stop learning.

Nutrition and our understanding of it are constantly evolving. I owe it to myself and to my clients to stay on top of things. I also owe it to them to be able to explain the WHY behind everything I suggest or recommend.

This point compliments my journalism background and my analytic nature. I do it regardless of whether I am practicing or not. So I look forward to having the opportunity to apply that knowledge to contribute to the wellbeing of others, as well as my own.

8. Thou shalt look past the food.

Food is only one aspect of holistic nutrition. Other equally important components to good health include water, air, sunlight, emotional poise, activity, and sleep. Someone could have the perfect diet, but if they’re emotionally distraught and stressed, they are never going to digest it well. I need to be able to identify my client’s needs as far as overall health and make sure those other aspects are also being addressed.

9. Thou shalt hold food sacred.

I believe that food is much more than raw nutrients. It is meant to be experienced, not just consumed. A healthy relationship with food embraces some degree of respect for the act of eating. Respecting your body enough to not fill it with garbage, and respecting food itself by choosing the nutrients that come from the earth. Appreciation is also a big part of this. Sharpening your tastebuds. Being open minded. Experiencing new flavours.

10. Thou shalt set an example.

I would like to be able to say that I have personally practiced at one point or another everything that I recommend to my clients. I want to have taken any supplements so I know how much they cost, where to get them, and how to consume them. I want to know where to get the best, highest quality food for the cheapest price, what to order at which restaurants on occasions where people must eat out, and exactly what various types of detoxes feel like.

THE BEGINNING

All of this will take time, but it starts with the 12 people I will take on as my clients.

If you live in the GTA and you’re interested in becoming one of the 12, please send me an email.

The commitment on your end would be to fill out some paperwork that I will use to assess you, then meet with me in person to discuss. I would make recommendations and together we would set goals for you. We’d keep in touch and have follow up meetings the way you would with any nutritionist. I would do this free of charge, under supervision. Your information would be strictly confidential, but I would write a report about you, which would then be evaluated by my instructors.

You’d be on my team.

vanessaruns@gmail.com.

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