This week, I’m going to talk a bit about personalized nutrition. This is a concept I’ve brought up frequently in my blog, but now I’m going to break it down in a bit more detail over several days. The concepts I’m going to cover will include:
- The Person
- Basic Lifestyle Guidelines
- Food Quality
- Meal Timing & Frequency
- Food Sensitivities
It all starts with the person. I always begin this work with a series of consultations, assessments, and intake paperwork that teaches me about their goals, priorities, history, and current state. You could do your own version of this for yourself as well.
Goals are the things people want to achieve. This is going to have a massive impact on what, when, and how they eat. Someone whose goal is to add muscle mass probably needs to eat more, while someone who has a goal to lose body fat may need to eat less. Understanding the individual’s goals and why they want to pursue them is a critical first step.
Priorities are different than goals. A person’s priorities are the things that are important to them in life. This colors everything they do. A young entrepreneur is thinking about their business constantly, while an aging musician may be tapping rhythms and humming melodies at all times. Knowing what people are about will change the nutrition recommendations you make for them. You wouldn’t tell a vegan to eat meat, for example.
History is another important factor that strongly affects the nutrition prescription. This encompasses their personal health history, of course, but also their family health history, which may put up red flags around their lifestyle and health risk factors. Another important piece is their personal nutritional history. Have they tried a long list of failed diets in the past? Do they have a history of eating disorders? Each of these pieces of information influences not only what they need to do nutritionally, but also how quickly (or slowly) they ought to make changes.
Of course, it is absolutely critical to know what state the person is in currently. This means knowing their current weight and body fat percentage (through assessment) so that you can calculate fat mass vs. lean mass, and make recommendations for caloric intake. This also means knowing how they eat. That information comes from a nutrition journal, either on paper or using an app. Their physical state and current dietary practices will provide critical information about where to start and where to go.
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