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It’s true: You are what you eat. If your members are filling their bodies with unhealthy junk food, it will not matter how many hours they log in the gym, they will have a harder time maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“There are statistics that one’s ability to achieve the body, weight and wellness they strive for is 80 percent what they eat,” said Jolene Conway, the certified holistic nutritionist at Pura Vida Fitness & Spa in Denver, Colorado. “And I agree.”
Exercise is just one component of the wellness puzzle. Hiring a nutritionist or registered dietitian (RD) within your health club provides additional resources for your members to help them reach their wellness goals. “There is so much information out there on different diets and having someone take the time to understand your goals, needs and barriers to design an approach that fits your life can be so empowering,” explained Conway.
If you are considering adding nutritional programming within your club or adding a nutritionist or RD to your staff, here are a few things to consider beforehand.
What type of programming should you offer?
When it comes to educating your members about healthy eating and wellness, there are a wide variety of services that can be provided, at varying price points. Services can range from the basic one-on-one counseling sessions to individualized meal plans, to more creative options like pantry makeovers.
“My services at Pura Vida include one-on-one nutritional counseling, which can be for a brief period of time, or for some, ongoing support,” added Conway. “I always complete a thorough intake session to understand their goals, symptoms, history, lifestyle habits, as well as get a sense of their typical current nutrition through diet diaries.”
Other services offered by Conway at Pura Vida include supplemental education, cooking classes, pantry clean-out, grocery tours, meal planning lessons and testing for nutrient deficiencies, imbalances or food sensitivities. She also offers group programs and educational workshops for members such as skin health, stress management, immune boosting, cooking workshops, emotional eating support and much more.
What are common nutrition struggles?
According to Conway, one of the most common issues she addresses within the Pura Vida setting is under-eating. “I would say a significant number of the people I have worked with have, consciously or unconsciously, been eating less than what their body craves and needs for fuel,” she said. “This is especially true for those that are aiming to lose weight. It is easy to just go by the idea of calories in and calories out when wanting to drop pounds, but it is so much more than that. Under-eating, especially over a chronic period, can really sabotage body composition goals and health as a whole.”
Another common struggle that Conway works to address with members is the impact of stress on their health. “Stress is a normal human experience, and can be from emotional and physical factors, but today it has become a chronic everyday aspect of life,” said Conway. “I believe in helping clients discover where they can problem solve to lessen stress and then learn coping strategies for handling areas that cannot be changed.”
What is the difference between a RD and a nutritionist?
Conway, who is a certified nutrition therapist (CNTP) as well as a certified master nutrition therapist (MNT), wanted to find a holistic and functional approach to medicine, which led her to become a nutritionist rather than a RD. So what is the difference between the two?
“RD is a label that can only be used by one that has the appropriate schooling approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, completed an internship and a specified examination to become an RD,” explained Conway. “A nutritionist, depending on the state, does not have the same requirement. Therefore some may feel nutritionists are under-qualified. However, it is important to understand what education and training background that individual has. For example, my schooling to become an MNT took three years of significant coursework, internship and client experience.”
Since healthy eating habits play such an essential role in your members’ success, Conway urged operators to thoughtfully consider integrating someone that can support the nutrition component within your club. “Convenience and proximity is a key for change and having someone in-house can help the follow-through for those that have entertained the idea of seeing a nutritionist,” she added.