With the current trends that exist today, within the fitness industry, there exists an overwhelming amount of information regarding the best diet for fitness and weight loss. Most of us think we are well informed about nutrition and we are quick to follow one faddish diet after the other, thinking it will reveal some secret about weight loss. It is important that one first distinguish their goals specifically, rank them in order of importance, and understand that weight is a combination of many components. Deciding whether it is fat loss, mass gain, performance improvement, or simply just to develop healthier eating habits, is the first step in finding an appropriate program.

For the purpose of this discussion, fat mass reduction as a goal for weight loss will be referenced here. It is a common goal that many clients seek programs for. It is generally known that there needs to be an imbalance of calories in versus calories out. It is important to highlight that fat loss is a complex physiological process, with this intervention being one of the many important variables controlled, to allow this to occur. While many plans, programs, or fad diets can achieve some fat loss, the best plan for an individual is one that is safe, easy to implement, efficient, suits the clients lifestyle, and most importantly allows for sustainable results.

With the increasing number of diet plans and programs emerging, each claiming that their method is the best and/or “proven”, one can become overwhelmed  trying to decide which is the most correct method of all. Examples of what one can see marketed are: The Paleo, Zone, Eat right for your type, Dr. Atkins, The South Beach, Flexible Dieting, The Ketogenic, or many Food Group Elimination methods. The focus shouldn’t be which is the most correct of all, rather the safest, most efficient, and optimal plan to meet the desired goals. Each will have their own method of creating a calorie deficit that can lead to weight loss. Notice, “weight loss” is the term used here as the end result of any program will vary in the actual  components of the  overall “weight” that is lost. The next thought consumers have is usually regarding the level of qualification that should be sought after in a practitioner or coach, who will lead them through their program of choice.

A Registered Dietician (RD) is a licensed professional, with a degree in nutritional sciences. They are educated to use nutritional recommendations to promote health and manage disease. They can be found in a number of clinical settings, eg clinics, hospital, or schools. They may or may not be educated beyond the clinical setting to manage nutrition for specific sports and/or exercise. Any consumer outside of these clinical setting, being managed for specific medical conditions, could have specific dietary restrictions that if deviated from, could impact their health and therefore would often be recommended by their doctor to seek this level of specialization.

Wellness & Lifestyle Coaches help lead their clients to live healthier lifestyles by taking a holistic approach on wellness, focusing on stress reduction, disease prevention, career satisfaction, social relationships, etc.  Their coaching goes beyond food and the diet to assist with helping clients improve their overall quality of life.  They are found in various settings such as wellness centers, yoga studios, etc.

Nutritionist or Nutrition coaches include individuals whose knowledge base will vary widely and they are generally certified at various levels. Some of their recommendations may overlap those prescribed by an RD and can be favorable to help reduce the symptoms of some of the common lifestyle related chronic conditions like high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, etc, that plague our communities. Their interventions are NOT INTENTED to diagnose or treat specific diseases, as these individuals need to be under the advice of their physician. The scope of practice is variable amongst this group. The coaching can be very basic, using the revised food guidelines to help clients with food combinations to make healthier choices, to being more specific with more in depth knowledge of the nutritional sciences and the physiological processes of the body. With this specific knowledge base, the program of an individual can be tailored to meet very specific goals. For example, a marathon runner may want a nutrition program to help improve his athletic performance and recovery, therefore an eating plan is set up for him to optimize glycogen super-compensation or perhaps an aesthetic physique competitor may wish to decrease body fat while optimizing his current muscle mass, therefore a specific calorie cycling eating plan may be employed to facilitate calorie partitioning. Another example is a coach may have been educated to understand fat patterning and how to recognize hormonal patterns either responsive or not, to their nutritional recommendations. The greater detail and specificity of any adjustment required throughout a nutritional course leads to higher efficacy of an individualized plan. This is why many “one for all “ approaches to diet plans work for some and not for others. Nutrition is a science and all practitioners and coaches know their scope of practice. This should always be open for discussion and explained to the client, if they are not sure they can meet any client’s expectations.

Many consumers have paid large sums of money for programs that end up being unrealistic to maintain, only to rebound any loss of weight, in some cases more than where they began and at a very rapid rate. This often leads to negative feelings of themselves, discouragement and feelings of failure. It can lead to the development of misconceptions and unhealthy relationships regarding certain food groups. A viscous cycle can occur with repetitive phases of dieting, binge eating and rebounds, which perpetuates the negative emotional environment.

When seeking a suitable nutrition plan, determine your readiness to actually make changes to your current habits. A good practitioner/coach will identify readiness as this can mean the success or failure of ANY plan. They will recognize any factors outside of their scope of practice and refer on to the appropriate disciplines. It is said, “the best diet to be on is whichever one you can stick to…”. Individuals should explore what program will fit into their lifestyle comfortably so that they are motivated to comply with the protocols. It is a partnership and both parties are expected to implement their role. Diligence on the part of the client is vital and the environment should be non judgmental, non accusatory, and open to welcome the expression of all feelings about the plan, any difficulties and set backs they may be experiencing.

An efficient plan does not lie on any end of the program’s spectrum, employing extreme measures and dictating the life of the client. It is one that utilizes a variety of foods, encourages a balanced life, minimizes client obsessions over the process (diet restrictions, exercise, etc), and thereby allowing them to get on with their normal activities of daily living. It is not disruptive to their values, family environment and is supportive in teaching the best way to survive events, trips, social situations, a busy career, shift work, etc., while being able to enjoy life free of guilt and endless worry of set backs.

A safe plan will optimize the health of the individual and minimize the occurrence of negative metabolic adaptions that can occur from any prolonged oversight of severe negative energy balance.  Many extreme low calorie or faddish diets that restrict beneficial food groups can upset the balance of activity to intake and limit the consumption of necessary micronutrients your body needs for all physiologic processes. These limitations make the process of losing weight harder which lead to plateaus, frustration, non-compliance and eventually discontinuence. Finding the balance between nutrition and activity is done by implementing calorie management, nutrient timing, food selection, supplemental suggestions (where appropriate only). Body composition assessments done frequently throughout any program allow for regular adjustments needed to keep the interventions optimal. This can be any measurement of weight, skinfold, and girth or regular assessments of all three.

Adapting new habits is not achieved overnight. Your coach/practitioner will identify skills you possess and help you recognize them to encourage compliance and motivation. It is an educational process: learning about a variety of foods, energy balance, calories, the meaning of macronutrients, reading food labels, the meaning of nutrient dense foods, teaching the difference between good and bad foods versus nutritionally beneficial and non beneficial foods, etc. Consistency is the greatest successful factor. There is no magic diet or workout routine. Eventually your new habits become a way of life. This is the sustainability of a program. It’s the ease of transition from the end of a fat loss phase into maintenance by implementing all new habits acquired during the fat loss phase. This is a very critical point and is where most extreme or faddish diets fail clients.

In conclusion, decide your true readiness to make changes in your daily habits. Determine how specific your goals are, rank and write them down. Explore which programs would best suit you. Ask questions, do your homework. It is not uncommon to have tried more than one before settling on an ideal program. Due to the various levels of certifications/qualifications, always be up front about whether your needs are being met. Remember it is a contract between you and the practitioner/coach and each party is expected to do their part to the best of their ability.

Shameela Simons

Shameela Simons RN,BSN, CPSN, CANS, PN1

Services offered at Vida Medical Spa


Bachelor’s in Nursing

Certified Plastic Surgical Nurse

Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist

Precision Nutrition Certified in the Essentials of Sport & Exercise Science

Aesthetic Figure Fitness Competitor

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