Why Personalized Nutrition Is Better Than The “One-Size-Fits-All” Approach
Anne Till, MNutr, RDN, LDN
Have you ever wondered why there are so many diets to choose from, yet we still face unprecedented levels of overweight, obesity, chronic disease, and poor health in America? Simple calorie restriction has been touted as the answer to weight loss for over 60 years – but rates of obesity are at an all time high with almost 40% of US adults now being considered obese. If this simple dietary recommendation were helpful, would we be facing such alarming statistics? Reaching beyond the simplistic advice to eat less and move more, working with a dietitian to optimize nutrition has so many other benefits. Optimal nutrition can contribute to wellness and longevity, ability to manage allergies, improve gastrointestinal health, lower inflammation, manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, and so much more! No single recommendation or “one-size-fits-all” approach works to help individuals achieve their personal health goals. People are metabolically distinct, live different lives from one another, and have unique requirements and preferences. Personalized nutrition meets an individual’s needs and supports unique requirements and goals.
The personalized nutrition approach is based on the idea that by educating and tailoring recommendations to a person’s needs and then by providing monitoring and ongoing support, each of us can and will be motivated to make the dietary changes necessary to support our health. Research shows that at least 80% of people achieve success with a personalized nutrition program. The process of personalized nutrition is easier than you would think and is far less expensive than commercial diet programs. Because your health insurance most often fully covers personalized nutrition services, the benefits of having a tailored program may be free to you.
Personalized nutrition helps you to achieve your goals, as it addresses multiple factors that influence your success: food choices, lifestyle behaviors, genetic factors, medical history, and metabolism. A comprehensive report on this subject exceeds the scope of this post, however the discussion that follows will give you a good idea of why personalized nutrition is considered superior to a “one-size-fits-all” approach to nutrition and health.
Personalized Nutrition Cultivates Motivation
The “one-size-fits-all” solution relies heavily on self-motivation and the limited resources of discipline and willpower, yet personalized nutrition with your dietitian cultivates and grows motivation.
I have noticed that many people feel frustrated as they think they “lack motivation” and/or “willpower” to do what is needed to achieve their health goals. The idea of a healthy lifestyle and the effort involved to bring this about in the modern-day environment that reinforces unhealthy eating habits can seem overwhelming and beyond reach. Feeling overwhelmed can make you feel defeated before you even begin. Be careful not to misinterpret these feelings or accept them as fact. This is not a lack of motivation because you still want to be healthy, but you may just not know how to do this within your given life circumstances. If you feel like this, it’s important to realize that you don’t have to have all the pieces of the puzzle in place to start seeing results. Your nutritionist is also operating as your wellness coach and cheerleader, and will help you to identify high impact choices that will help to transform your health. Success breeds success and motivation is something that builds as it is cultivated and as you see results.
Motivation also needs to be maintained and nurtured continuously so that it does not fizzle out. Real-life circumstances continually distract and pull focus, this tends to chip away at the enthusiasm we need to stay on track. This is the reason a collaborative relationship with your nutritionist is so important. Regular meetings help you gain new insights and different perspectives, to refocus and recalibrate to help you stay motivated and on track. The purpose of a personalized approach is that your needs are met at each visit and you are supported every step of the way as you move toward your goals. Generic recommendations don’t build motivation – they hold up standards that leave you feeling defeated when you can’t implement them within your unique circumstances. Personalized nutrition certainly wins when it comes to building and maintaining motivation!
Personalized Nutrition Defines Nutrient Targets & Creates Individualized Meal Plans
The “one-size-fits-all” solution ignores individuality and personal preferences, but personalized nutrition considers all aspects of individuality and your specific requirements.
Personalized nutrition includes a comprehensive nutrition evaluation of your current eating habits. This assessment looks at all aspects of your food intake. It takes into consideration the timing of meals, what and where you usually eat, and personal food preferences. A person’s food choices are influenced by many factors such as: cultural practices, personal food likes and dislikes, food allergies, food intolerances, and even cooking skills. You may also have a particular health concern that may affect your food choices. For example, a person with a gluten sensitivity will exclude gluten containing foods from his/her diet, while someone who is trying to manage insulin resistance may be more concerned with the types and amounts of carbohydrate in their diet.
The goal of an individualized assessment is to analyze your intake and compare it with nutrient goals that are recommended for your health. Personalized nutrition will identify nutrient gaps and make recommendations to help you fill the gaps through food and/or supplements. Personalized nutrition also incorporates guidelines that are specific to your health concerns. For example, if you have high blood pressure, your nutrition assessment will consider specific nutrients that impact blood pressure such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and omega 3 fatty acids. While if you have inflammation, your assessment will consider nutrients that have anti-inflammatory properties.
An individualized meal plan should always be created following your initial assessment, as this is an important part of the personalized nutrition approach and aims to provide a “road map” to help you achieve an optimal intake. Your meal plan should include your personal food preferences and nutritional guidelines particular to your health goals. For example, if you want to lose weight and manage high cholesterol, your meal plan would be completely different than someone who wants to gain weight, is vegetarian, and is training for a triathlon. Personalized nutrition helps you hit the target and beats a “one-size-fits-all” approach every time. Once you have a meal plan, it is important to remember that following the meal plan 100% perfectly is not the overall goal. Your meal plan provides clear guidance, the ultimate benefit of a personalized nutrition plan.
Personalized Nutrition Considers your Environment
The “one-size-fits-all” solution ignores environmental factors that affect food choices, but personalized nutrition helps you recognize and manage environmental factors that impact your health goals.
Environmental factors have a significant impact on our food choices, lifestyle behaviors, and metabolic capabilities. Personalized nutrition provides solutions to environmental factors by helping you see what is in plain sight, yet when left unrecognized may be undermining your progress toward goals. Environmental influences on your health are not “self-control” problems as many people think, but often just require some thought and a bit more planning to navigate or resolve. For example, if you plan to eat in a healthy way but have no healthy food choices available at home or at work, it becomes very difficult to stick to your plan and you will eat what is available, as anyone would. Your dietitian will work with you to identify environmental influences that are impacting your choices and help you come up with a plan to successfully manage these factors.
Here are a few examples of how personalized nutrition can support you in managing environmental factors that impact your goals:
- Adapt your individualized meal plan to pair well with family meals.
- Facilitate a guided pantry audit to help you shape your home environment to support your goals.
- Provide grocery shopping tips and shortcuts for the stores you usually shop at.
- Reviews and provides insight into meals from meal kit services (if this is something you prefer to use).
- Discuss strategies for managing food choices at work or in the break room.
- Provide dining out tips particular to you and the restaurants you prefer.
- Present clear guidance on managing social activities that are realistic and support your health goals.
- Cultivate mindful eating practices to help you manage your environment successfully.
There are many other strategies used for managing environmental factors, but you get the idea. It’s not just knowing what to eat that contributes to success, rather obtaining the skills to manage your environment and support consistent habits can significantly impact the attainment of your goals. A “one-size-fits-all” solution does not impart skills or provide strategies for success in your environment.
Just as our environment shapes food choices, it does the same for activity. Inactivity imposed on us by desk jobs, sedentary entertainment, and the current “COVID stay-at-home inertia” contributes significantly to slowing down your metabolic rate. Movement need not be daunting, exhausting, or impractical. Your nutritionist has many tricks and tips to help you move more without necessarily needing to join a gym or become breathless. It is understood that time constraints also drive inactivity, your dietitian will work with you to find the best solution for you and your stage of life. Again, what suits you will differ from what will fit another person’s needs (even with activity a “one-size-fits-all” solution seldom works).
Personalized Nutrition Nurtures Tenacity and Changes Habits
The “one-size-fits-all” solution disregards usual habits and offers a temporary change through simple rules for how you eat and live. When you finish the commercial diet program, you often feel more lost than when you started. Personalized nutrition builds healthy habits that produce desired outcomes and ensure you can keep going!
Habits refer to a manner of behavior that has become practically involuntary. Habits produce outcomes all the time – regardless of whether we are aware of it or not. For example, brushing your teeth daily results in the outcome of good dental hygiene, fewer dentist bills, fresh breath, less tooth pain, and so on. To maintain the outcome the habit needs to be maintained, which happens effortlessly when it’s become your default pattern of behavior. Similarly, picking up breakfast from the drive-thru every morning is convenient. This too can quickly become a habit and the default choice for how you start your day. Remember habits produce outcomes, and the undesirable metabolic response to the fast-food meal combined with the low nutrient value and typically calorie-dense nature can trigger hunger and food cravings that day, and contribute to weight gain and inflammation longer-term. These outcomes are certainly not desirable, and if the habit is maintained, it can undermine your health.
Personalized nutrition helps you identify unhealthy habits that are sabotaging your goals and teaches you how to disrupt them in order to avoid the undesirable outcomes. Personalized nutrition also cultivates healthy habits that result in more automatic healthy and desirable outcomes. Your dietitian is your coach and mentor, and will explain the mechanics of building and maintaining healthy habits. Reinforcement is key and the collaborative approach of personalized nutrition offers you a solution!
Are you ready to get started with your personalized nutrition plan? There is no time like the present! Don’t wait until you feel ready to begin or the calendar tells you it’s time to focus on a resolution..from experience, I know it is never the “right time,” – really, the time is now! Contact us today. We are here to help you begin your personalized nutrition journey that leads all the way to success.
Our Dietitians/ Nutritionists are here to help you and our office is open. Most major health insurance companies are also covering telehealth visits, usually at no cost to you. Our office will verify your benefits for you – both for existing patients and new patients. Navigating meals and snacks is an essential part of managing your health. Let us help you figure out how to use this information and support you in your various goals!
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Yours in health and wellness,
Anne Till MNutr, RDN, LDN
Call Us Today: 919-990-1130