Conventional medicine tends to separate human health into parts: mental, physical, emotional, social, etc.
Holistic simply means that all aspects of a person’s well-being are considered. The whole person is the focus, rather than merely the symptoms or disease that ails them. It is based on the premise that “the part can never be well unless the whole is well”. Socrates
So what is the difference between Holistic Nutrition and conventional Dietetics?
What type of nutrition or health expert would be best for you to work with?
Here are some things to consider:
Registered Dietitians must:
1 – have a bachelor of science degree in Dietetics and Human Nutrition
2 – complete a 1-year clinical practicum
3 – pass the National Dietetics Exam
4 – be licensed through the Dietetics Association in their jurisdiction
Dietitians (and Nutritionists who meet the above criteria) are the only nutrition experts regulated by a governmental body and authorized to treat certain conditions (where a prescription has deemed nutrition to be a determining factor in the treatment).
Nutritionists, coaches, and other practitioners who do not meet these criteria, will have varying levels of training in nutrition, and possibly none at all! In most areas, these titles are not reserved nor regulated by a governing authority, therefore it is extremely important that you look into the training and experience of any nutritionist or alternative health practitioner you choose to work with.
Something else to consider:
While most Dietitians follow the conventional, westernized approach they learned in school, you can be assured that they have received clinical training and hold a reputable degree. Nutritionists and other health consultants may not meet these same requirements, but they generally have a reputation for offering a variety of alternative solutions and a more “whole-person” approach when it comes to client care. This is appealing to many people, especially those who have seen their Doctor or a Registered Dietitian and did not get the results they were looking for.
For a bit more reading on this topic, take a look at this article.
So what type of nutrition/health expert should you choose??
I feel that combining the best of BOTH worlds is ideal, don’t you? Why not choose a holistic practitioner who is ALSO trained in conventional Dietetics? That way you get all of the benefits of working with a holistic coach who has a wide range of skills, while at the same time having the reassurance that she is backed by a reputable education and the appropriate training to work with a variety of conditions.
Here is MY reason for choosing Holistic Nutrition:
Despite the rigorous training I received in Dietetics, I felt that my education was lacking when it came to practical knowledge and adverse skills. What I mean is, even though I had the required knowledge in biochemistry, physiology, and clinical nutrition, I lacked the skills to apply this knowledge, find alternative solutions, and coach my clients in a way that was flexible and enjoyable for them. My education hadn’t prepared me for the listening, coaching, and support skills that I would need to provide excellent care. It also hadn’t provided me with alternative approaches that could be used when the text-book answer didn’t fit.
I found that for my own weight and health issues, the approach taken by myself and other Dietitians didn’t work for me. I became completely stressed about my diet, and stress (as you may know) is a huge barrier to losing weight and maintaining good health. But I hadn’t learned that. Emotional triggers and state of mind are also intricately involved in eating and overall health, but this was barely touched upon during my 4-year degree. Body toxicity, cleansing techniques, food enzymes, fermented foods, herbal remedies, and how food is used to heal in other cultures were rarely discussed.
So I ventured into Holistic Health and found my training there to be fundamental in my own successes as well as those of my clients. The holistic approach simply means that all aspects of a person’s life are taken into consideration. This means that in addition to diet, I also look at stress levels. career satisfaction, relationships, spirituality, physical activity, sleep, mental status, and more. I follow the intuition of clients and work with their current practices and preferences instead of laying down rules and restrictions that they don’t want. I also pull from an arsenal of traditional and alternative methods to find the approach that best suits them in their journey to heal. This is invaluable.
Perhaps the biggest difference between conventional Dietetics and Holistic Nutrition is flexibility and the willingness to venture outside the box..
In Dietetics, we learn the ‘formula’ for weight loss and optimal nutrient intake. We are taught to rely on scientific literature for answers. I believe evidence-based practice is extremely important, but I also recognize its limitations. I know from experience that scientific study cannot always provide the answers to real-life circumstances and that empirical data is important also. I have also found that conventional Dietetics focuses primarily on the impact of nutrition in the body (which is extremely important I might add!), but may leave out other important factors such as psychology, toxicology, stress, sleep, and so much more.