While everyone has their own definition of health and wellness, there are some overarching themes that the pros (nutritionists, dietitians, health coaches, etc.) tend to gravitate toward or avoid altogether. We checked in with Brigid Titgemeier, Functional Medicine Registered Dietitian and Founder of My Food is Health, who told us, “Vocabulary is very important when it comes to nutrition and health. I am extremely selective with the vocabulary that I use to speak about nutrition, and I coach my clients to pay attention to the words they use to describe themselves and situations. Words are extremely powerful, and they can often make us feel better or worse about our efforts.” Here are three things she loves to hear from clients, and four she’d rather not.
3 Phrases a Nutritionist Loves to Hear (and 4 You Should Avoid)
1. Say ‘I choose to eat for health.’
“When you start to look at food as an avenue to create health,” Titgemeier says, “it is no longer something you actively try to restrict.” Many people fall into the trap of eating for the sole purpose of losing weight, versus eating to nourish your body—a distinction that, per Titgemeier, often comes at the expense of your health.
2. Say ‘Nutrition is a practice.’
Interestingly, Titgemeier compares eating well to playing a sport, meaning it takes practice. “No one expects athletes to make every single basket, and perfectionism should not be expected with nutrition,” she notes. Instead of punishing yourself for ‘messing up’ (whatever that means), remind yourself that fueling your body in the best way possible is an ongoing task. “And as with sports,” Titgemeier adds, “the most important thing is not making every basket but rather rebounding as quickly as possible if you do not make the basket.” So don’t freak out if you have a day full of indulgent meals—start fresh tomorrow.
3. Say ‘Eating well is a form of self-respect.’
“So many people have been conditioned to believe that dieting is a way to make yourself ‘better,’” Titgemeier laments. “But really, choosing high quality foods is a way that you can love, respect and fuel your mental, emotional and physical health.” She stresses that food is much more powerful when used as nourishment and medicine versus approaching it with shame, guilt or fear.
4. Don’t say ‘I have no willpower.’
Though you may feel like your own willpower is at fault when you reach for Oreos instead of carrots at the grocery store, Titgemeier warns that we often aren’t able to make the best food choices because we get stuck in a vicious cycle of our brain and taste buds being hijacked by the processed food industry, which heightens cravings and clouds our decision making ability. “They are constantly bombarded by food advertising and processed food at the checkout aisle of every single grocery store, gas station and drug store,” she says. “These food norms, coupled with a lack of strategies to decrease their stress response and improve their duration of sleep will make them much more reactive to the foods around them.” This one, again, comes down to not beating yourself up about nutrition. Once you recognize the need to get off the addictive cycle of these foods, Titgemeier says you’ll be better equipped to make healthy choices—without judging yourself along the way.
5. Don’t say ‘What is the best diet?’
Now more than ever, people are realizing that the idea of a one-size-fits-all diet is unreasonable. Still, Titgemeier says she sees clients looking for ‘the best’ diet. The thing is, that doesn’t exist. “Every single person has their own biochemical individuality and requires a personalized approach to nutrition,” she says. “Overly generalized diets do not work because there are so many factors that influence your nutritional needs (including blood sugar response to foods, genetics, gut microbiome and more).” The goal, instead, should be to determine your own unique needs and then to set an intention to nourish every cell in your body rather than overly restrict yourself by following a plan that isn’t suited for your needs.
6. Don’t say ‘I had a cheat meal yesterday.’
“I do not believe in cheat meals,” Titgemeier frankly states. “The definition of cheating is: ‘to act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage,’ so the phrase ‘cheat meal’ doesn’t even make sense.” She says that this type of thinking keeps people locked in an ‘on-diet, off diet’ mindset, where they’re either on or off a plan. “I recommend replacing the term ‘cheat meal’ with ‘less optimal meal,’” she notes. “It decreases guilt and helps you see past the moral value that you associate with your food choices.”
7. Don’t say ‘I’m trying to eat clean.’
The term ‘clean eating’ has become wildly popular in the past few years, and usually describes a whole foods approach. Titgemeier is wary of the term: “I’m a huge proponent of making these shifts in your diet but I do not label them as clean,” she tells us. “In some instances, the most nutritious foods are often ‘dirty,’ meaning that they came from the soil of the earth which leads to a higher nutrient-density.”