It was late 2013 and I’d just paid $US30 to receive “personalized macros and a nutrition plan.” I weighed 59kg and had 20% body fat. The (very good) science that got those figures classed me as optimal body composition, athlete-status and with no changes recommended. I trained hard 6 days/week and paid a great deal of attention to my nutrition.
No changes recommended didn’t help me though. Because as I’ve shared openly, I was deep in the throes of disordered eating and body dysmorphia. So, changes I sought.
Searching online, I contacted someone offering said macro plans, an area that I’d started learning more about. Someone, if I’m honest, I consulted on my own nutrition because of how they looked. And because I wanted to look like that. If you’ve ever read any of my disordered eating or training stories on this blog, you’ll know that I can stick to anything. I’m a master of discipline when I want something. 6 weeks into this “macro program” I had to admit that it wasn’t right though.
- Eating as little as I was and,
- Eating with ever more obsession than in the past (who knew it was possible?!) wasn’t OK for me.
I consulted someone on my own nutrition because of how they looked. And because I wanted to look like that.
So by the end of summer 2014 I stopped the program. And I started to unravel the complexity that was my disordered eating, obsessive training and body dysmorphia. A huge part of that unravelling is my blog; so much at the time self-therapy via writing and for anyone to see.
I’m naturally suspicious and always one to find the evidence. However, the above story I’ve shared was less than 5 years ago. And I still vividly recall the palpable feeling of vulnerability and of desperation. I felt desperate to lose weight (yes, I thought I needed to), so desperate that reason went out the window. Believe me, I get it. When a health and wellness goal is so important to us that it becomes everything.
I freaking well get it.
I saw a somewhat similar story shared online this week (see below) and felt compelled to share my story with you. Fortunately, dissimilar to the recent story, I was not seeking assistance for a health issue; as this poor girl had been; and had been around these practices for long enough that my intuition cut it short, and quickly!
You could say that in 2013, my desperation allowed me to have blinders on. I “fell” for what I thought was a qualified individual though in reality if I’d spent even half the time researching her actual qualifications as I had stalking her ab shots online, I might have avoided additional pain on my journey.
I still vividly recall the palpable feeling of vulnerability and of desperation. I felt desperate to lose weight (yes, I thought I needed to), so desperate that reason went out the window.
If I'd looked, what I would have found is that this individual “trained as a nutrition specialist” which FYI means FA. That her personal history of being around gyms, working as a trainer and around other fit people somehow qualified her to consult on highly indivualised nutrition planning for someone she enquired nothing of, across the globe!
This is nothing new but that doesn’t mean we’re learning anything from it. Self-labelled experts and gurus are all over the place and come in many forms. And the truth is, they wouldn’t be if people weren’t biting.
I take responsibility for seeking out this individual to help me, she didn't approach me. She didn't lie about false qualifications either, I simply chose not to investigate or think they mattered.
I’d love for everyone to know of the pitfalls from these stories and hopefully avoid them though that’s likely naïve.
So perhaps more modestly, I’d ask you challenge people on their qualifications to be talking about what they’re talking about. Personal experience does not equal professional. Though on the other hand, it can help make a better professional and I certainly know that’s the case for me. Years of struggle and learning the hard way complement my 3+ years of studying Nutrition at university. [Which by the way, when I was not yet qualified, was the only place I had provided personalized consultations to date; within a teaching clinic.]
I lose count of how many times in a day, online or offline I experience how wrong this can go. Seemingly harmless information, perhaps even designed to empower, making its way to dinner table and water cooler discussion, setting up misinformation and likely unnecessary actions in people who'd otherwise have benefited from individual, qualified and evidence-based advice.
Hello everyone is now obsessed with turmeric.
Perhaps that everyone eats means the likelihood of nutrition experts will always naturally be higher? We can all relate, therefore we all know. And much of that is true too. No one will ever know your own instincts like you will. And it's my professional perspective that the best, qualified Nutritionists and Dieticians encourage and promote those instincts, working with you as an individual to bring about your best health and most enjoyable eating. I welcome the industry to become highly regulated. [FYI it's not regulated by the government in Australia at all.]
To prevent so much of the above from happening in the first place. Because an understanding of nutrition is powerful and whilst I'm no elitist, I do believe that power should be taught well, practiced efficiently and regarded highly.
I'm proud of the work I've done so far within my industry and look forward to continuing to evolve and hold myself to incredibly high professional standards (even if they're not required). And I know there's a heap of Nutrition professionals in the same boat which is something that we can all feel hopeful about.