This month we spoke to Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS, the founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness and the author of Unapologetic Eating, about nutrition education.
How can clubs help members wade through nutrition misinformation?
It’s always important to check the source of the information. Look for who is presenting it and why. There’s a difference between a registered dietitian nutritionist with extensive training in the field using evidence-based sources and an “influencer” relying on their own personal experience.
Be wary of any information that seems extreme, relies on scare tactics, or any recommendation to avoid or cut out any type of food or food group. Nutrition information is nuanced and individualized. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
How can clubs help educate members on true, healthy nutritional information?
Health clubs can start by being on the lookout for misinformation and being sure not to promote any fad diets or type of restriction. Those may sound intriguing, but we know they don’t work and can cause harm to people. Health club professionals can always encourage members to talk to a professional, such as a registered dietitian, for any individual questions or concerns.
What resources do you recommend clubs use to educate members?
Health clubs can start by following credentialed accounts — such as registered dietitians — on social media and the internet. When assessing whether social media accounts or websites are presenting accurate information, it’s best to look for a couple of dos and don’ts.
Do: Follow those who understand the big picture and encourage variety and nuance, as well as cite the evidence and where they got their information.
Don’t: Follow those that give extreme or specific recommendations, promote fad diets or “quick fixes,” or demonize any foods or style of eating.
The next step when it comes to resources would be to go straight to the source of evidence-based information with sites such as nutrition.gov or The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Relying on these sites can help health clubs stay up to date on current and emerging evidence in the field, and fact-check the latest trend or information that might be going viral on the internet.
Nutrition plays a key role in helping members meet their goals. What other advice can you offer on the topic?
I always tell my clients I’m less concerned about what they eat than what they feel about what they eat. When it comes to meeting goals in a long-term, sustainable way, a person’s relationship to food and eating is much more important than telling them, “Eat this” or “Don’t eat that.” Many people approach nutrition as “all or nothing” such as categorizing certain foods as “good” or “bad,” cutting out or restricting entire food groups, or constantly thinking about food as a list of rules to follow. Finding that gray area when it comes to nutrition and shifting the mindset to ‘all foods can fit’ allows people to truly find what works best for them.
Nutrition is just one piece of the puzzle. One of the larger pieces that is often overlooked is stress management. While exercise can definitely help provide some relief, it’s beneficial to have a variety of coping strategies, such as calling a friend, listening to music, meditating and other modes of self-care.
Another piece would be the importance of rest and recovery, which includes taking regular rest days, prioritizing sleep and honoring your body’s needs for proper nutrition. Finally, ensuring people set goals that feel good to them and are aligned with their values, without getting stuck in the comparison trap, is incredibly valuable.
Five Tips on Nutrition:
1. Your body thrives on a consistent source of energy. Eating a meal or snack every three to five hours throughout the day will keep your cells optimally fueled.
2. Fuel around your workout for optimal performance and recovery.
3. Carbs often get a bad rap in the fitness world, but they are your body’s best source of energy, and the preferred source of energy for your brain. They are so important it’s recommended half of your diet should consist of carb-rich foods.
4. Eating a variety of foods ensures your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs.
5. Know food is more than just fuel. Food is also pleasure, satisfaction, community, memories and joy. Eating the foods you love is foundational to enjoyable and sustainable success in your goals.