By Kirsten Serrano
Are you reflecting on your health in the new year and not where you want to be? If so, it may be time to find help.
Before you start to look, define your goals. Be careful here because we are programmed to define that goal as weight loss. Weight loss can absolutely happen with a solid nutrition plan and it may be fine to have that as a goal, but the real prize is health. I urge you not to fall for the next weight loss scheme or fad diet. The goal is to learn skills and gain resources to nourish yourself, not go on and off erratic eating plans chasing a clothing size.
Take the time to really think about your personal goals. Health – what does that mean for you? When I was very sick, some of my immediate goals were get restful sleep, move without pain, stop my hair loss, have enough energy to enjoy my life and to get my brain back. Those were very specific and motivating goals. Some of my clients’ goals have been to banish daily digestive distress, have the energy to enjoy their hobbies, feel confident about food choices and get rid of arthritic pain. Really taking the time to define your goals allows you to better evaluate potential help.
Taking the time to find the right kind of help is key. Unfortunately, there is a lot of “wellness industry” junk science and cruddy advice to be had. It can be overwhelming, but great help is out there.
As you sift through your options, look for a person and program that is:
- Built upon solid science. This may be the hardest element to evaluate. The “shake in a can” diets are pretty darn easy to see through, but most programs will show you some “science.” Anecdotes and stats can be found to prop up just about anything. My advice is to ask questions. Do a little research.
- Skill-, tool- and resource-based. You are the one going home and doing all the work. It is fine to be told what you need to do, but you need to build the skills and learn to use available tools and resources to make change possible. Otherwise, what is the point?
- Whole food-based. Any plan that has you gobbling large amounts of supplements, processed foods, and any other magic shakes and potions is a waste of your time. Nutrition magic is in real foods.
- An education. If you are not being taught why, you are not building a foundation for a lifetime of health. Expect and demand substance.
- Personalized. You need an eating approach that works for YOU. A one-size-fits-all approach does not exist.
- An investment of time in you. Real transformation takes a time investment – on your part and on the part of whomever you choose to work with. Find someone who is accessible and gets to know you.
- Real about food and farm quality. Any approach that does not teach you about food quality is bankrupt. A really good program will also teach you about the realities of farming and food quality.
- About shopping smarter. Sourcing quality, nutrient-dense food is vital to improving your health. Find a program that really teaches you how to do that (and stay on a budget).
- Nutrient focused. You don’t have to go into a program expecting to come out of it with a nutrition degree, but you should expect to learn about nutrition, not just calories and macronutrient ratios.
- Honoring your emotions. Mindset and complex feelings are usually a large part of the work. Make sure you are getting someone who can talk through that with you in a way that is respectful and productive.
- About whole-body health. Make sure you are working with someone who can help you maneuver lifestyle as well as food. Food can be the centerpiece of overall health, but you deserve real, transformative help!
Overall, demand substance. Hire someone you can have a real conversation with and that listens to you. Look for a teacher and a guide, not a dictator. Lifelong change only happens when you dig in and commit to learning so find someone who can teach.
Kirsten Serrano is a nutrition consultant, chef, farmer, food literacy educator and the best-selling author of “Eat to Your Advantage.” You can find out more about her work at SmallWonderFood.com.