There is so much information available today on health and wellness, reflecting how people are taking an interest in learning about and sharing health info . It can also be a source of inspiration and motivation. New revelations in health and wellness spread like wildfire over the internet, with talk about the latest “super food”, supplement, diet, exercise routine, etc. With all this info available at our finger tips, the door is open for anyone to do a little reading and come to a conclusion. I think that it is great when people are motivated and self-directed in learning about how to take care of their health. However, all this information sometimes leads people to question well established health recommendations, possibly even losing trust in current practices. One emerging culture that keeps popping up is what is often referred to as “holistic health”.
Holistic health refers to taking into account how body, mind and spirit come together to form our entire selves, as well as how all those things interact. I think that this is really interesting, as we are entire beings and the foods that we eat have more than just a physical impact on us, and vice versa. Holistic health practitioners often coach their clients in how to enjoy a balanced lifestyle to optimize their health. Or rather, their “principal function is to educate individuals and groups about the benefits and health impact of optimal nutrition” (1). Sounds good, right? But how do they achieve this? A quick search will unearth the fact that many holistic health practitioners promote and sell:
- detox and cleanse regimens (hint: your body can detox itself, and it does so everyday)
rapid weight loss programs (hint: rapid weight loss diets don't contribute to long term weight loss, and can actually harm you)
live blood analysis (hint: the science on this is lacking, and will most likely lead to the conclusion that you need to take a range of supplements... that they will gladly sell you)
on that note, therapeutic supplements (hint: in some cases supplements can help you meet nutritional needs, but depending on where they come from they can be unsafe, ineffective, unreliable, or possibly even contaminated with unintended substances).
.... among other things, and all for a price.
The whole idea is health optimization and disease prevention, however is it possible that good intentions might be left behind while trying to make a buck? And really, how many people are going to afford to pay for these services? Will it be those that are most likely to develop a chronic condition? Probably not, since income actually pays a role in determining our health, along with access to safe, healthy foods. In fact, evidence has shown that:
“Low income Canadians are more likely to die earlier and to suffer more illnesses than Canadians with higher incomes...” (2)
So, who is there to assist those whose health is most at risk (which would make a bigger impact in public health, overall)? Who can provide health-promoting guidance to individuals, without trying to sell them unnecessary services? Could it be the boring ol' Dietitian? (Hint: the answer is yes)
Plus, here are a few examples on how dietitians might be more “holistic” than you think:
- We take the entire person into consideration – making nutrition and health recommendations is not a “one size fits all”, cookie cutter process. Dietitians take many things into consideration when providing nutrition counselling and education, including diet history, medical history, family history, interpreting lab blood work, on-going chronic health conditions, acute health conditions, motivation level, family life, social supports, cooking skills, proximity to a grocery store, factors affecting physical function, stress level, mental health, sleep patterns, cultural practices, religious beliefs, factors affecting a person's food choices, as well as what foods a person enjoys, has access to and can afford (just to name a few)... Because all those things affect your health and your life.
Behaviour change – part of a dietitian's training includes assessing where a person falls on the spectrum of motivation, what factors contribute to motivation level, and how this affects the changes they are ready to make. This allows us to adjust our counselling style to the needs of that person.
We meet our clients were they are – there is no point in making recommendations that wouldn't work for you, so we try our best to start by supporting the goals that you have and working from there.
Science/evidenced based practice – with new scientific nutrition information and revelations in the function of the human body comes new recommendations. There are standards in place that ensure we follow best practice and complete continuing education each year.
That being said, dietitians work in many different specializations. Just like you wouldn't see a cardiologist for cancer treatment, your wouldn't necessarily expect a dietitian working with tube feedings to provide you with counselling on healthy eating and lifestyle changes.
Our knowledge base extends beyond diet plans and nutrition analysis. Plus, we are regulated, which means we can work in health care settings and we go through a comprehensive program to get to be able to do what we do (see “What is a Dietitian” under the “About Me” tab).
If you are interested in finding a dietitian near you (In Canada), click here.
Please note: In writing this, it is not my intention to discredit those practicing in holistic health. Rather, if you are seeking these therapies, do your research and think critically on the services and products that are being promoted.