The Nutrition Diva's Quick and Dirty Tips for Eating Well and Feeling Fabulous

How (not) to give nutrition advice

Episode Summary

Some advice for those who want to help their friends and family eat healthier. And some tips for those just starting out on the healthy eating journey.

Episode Notes

Some advice for those who want to help their friends and family eat healthier. And some tips for those just starting out on the healthy eating journey.

Nutrition Diva is written and hosted by Monica Reinagel. Transcript available at Simplecast.

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Episode Transcription

I frequently get emails from readers and listeners asking for advice on behalf of someone they care about. One young lady is worried about her brother's horrible eating habits. "How do I convince him to take better care of himself?" she wants to know. 

Or Alyssa, who wrote: “There are some folks in my life that think they are eating healthy and exercising well, but they're not, and it shows. What are some good tips for those just starting out on the healthy-eating journey, and how might we present these tips to them?”

Another wrote for advice on how to help her husband, who needs to lose a lot of weight. Really, what she wanted to know is how to get her husband to take my advice instead of listening to his mother, who apparently is pushing extreme diet fads. 

"I want a friend to get professional help for weight loss and related health issues," wrote a third. "Do you offer private consultations?"

All of these folks have really good intentions. They're motivated by a sincere concern and desire to help. And it means a lot to me that they place their trust in me. But I try not to give advice to people that haven’t sought my help themselves. Because the reality is that there really isn't much I (or their loved ones) can do to change someone who is not yet ready. 

In truth, even people who say they're ready to change often aren't: They'd like for things to be different, but they’re not yet willing to do—or not do—what it would take to create a different result. And until they are ready, it doesn't matter how much information you make available, how many obstacles you remove, how easy you make it. Change requires powerful desire and ongoing commitment and will. It's just not something you can do for someone else.

Once people have decided to make a change, trust me: They will find their own way to the information, tools, and resources they need. If they want your input or advice, they'll ask for it. And you can't worry about whether the information they find is "right" or not. If it doesn't work, they'll keep looking. Keep in mind that the things that motivate and work for them may be different than what works for you.

Once someone you care about has made a commitment to a healthy lifestyle, there's a lot you can do to support them. 

I also wanted to circle back to part of Alyssa’s question. She asked for tips for people just starting out on the healthy eating journey. And maybe some of you listening are here because you’re just starting out on that path. So for you, here are a few thoughts on how to get started—because there’s a lot of information out there and it can get overwhelming really fast. 

There are so many nutrients that you might be deficient in, so many exotic foods that fight this or that condition or reduce your risk. And then there’s all the dangers: the toxic ingredients or special ways that foods MUST be prepared or combined in order to retain their nutrient value.

And part of this is just the reality of the information economy. In order to keep your attention, news needs to remain new. And so a lot of the research that makes the evening news or internet sites is preliminary research that’s not really ready for prime time. It’s an initial finding in rats, or in 5 20-year-old athletes, or some other somewhat irrelevant population, that requires more research or doesn’t necessarily translate into actionable advice.

An even better way to get attention in a very noisy media environment is to come up with an approach that’s completely contrary to conventional wisdom. Like declaring that eating grains is bad for your brain. Or that saturated fat is really good for you. Or that eating meat will give you cancer. Or that beans and legumes are full of toxins. Each of these ideas, by the way, was promoted in books that spent months on the New York Times best-seller list.

I’m not saying that we should never challenge the conventional wisdom—because sometimes it’s wrong. But subtlety and common sense and moderation don’t sell. As a result, people who challenge the conventional wisdom often go a bit overboard, going to extremes, or throwing the baby out with the bathwater. A lot of the popular conversation around nutrition has devolved into highly polarized camps that spend a lot of energy attacking one another.  

All of this is to say that I feel for the average layperson who just wants to eat healthy and doesn’t have time to make it a full-time job. The good news is all the dangers and threats are not nearly as dangerous and threatening as they are made out to be. But by the same token, the magical powers of this berry or that tea or herb to cure and prevent all that ails us have also been exaggerated.

A healthy diet is a lot less complex and difficult than we tend to think. It really comes down to a few guidelines that really can be summed up in a few sentences—and ones you’ve heard me say lots of times.

And one final thought for those who want to help their loved ones eat healthy: While unsolicited advice is usually not very effective, don’t underestimate the power of modeling those healthy choices—and make it look easy and fun, not strict or stressful.

Thanks to all of you who have shared the Nutrition Diva podcast with friends and family and to all of you long-time listeners. I’m grateful for your support and enthusiasm.

Just a quick housekeeping note. We’re making some changes in how we distribute the Quick and Dirty Tips podcasts and starting this week, transcripts for the shows and links to resources I mention will be found on our new show page at nutrition-diva.simplecast.com and not at quickanddirtytips.com where you may have been accustomed to look for them in the past. You’ll find a link to each episode’s show notes and transcript in whatever app you’re using to listen to the show. And you can still reach me by email at nutrition@quickanddirtytips.com. I always love to hear from you.

The Nutrition Diva show is a QuickandDirtyTips podcast. It’s audio engineered by Nathan Semmes and our team at Macmillan Audio also includes Adam Cecil, Davina Tomlin, Morgan Christianson, and our intern Brendan Picha.

Thanks for listening and remember to eat something good for me.