Megan Berner, Dietitian (Nourish To Flourish), Fitness Coach (Fitness Lying Down)
Although I haven’t been a dietitian very long, I have helped many of our clients at our gym, Fitness Lying Down, and those in the La Crosse community nourish to flourish. My impact was great enough to be nominated and win the title of being the Best Nutritionist in La Crosse County for 2022! Clearly my nutrition philosophy has resonated with those in the area so I like to help people understand practical years and all the years studying do come together.
The clients I serve have come from all walks of life with various nutrition and health goals. This prompted me to dig deeper into topics that I had only scratched the surface of in school. These include weight management, hormonal support, fueling for activity, and improving relationships with food. Even though I’ve been out of school for several years, I still identify myself as a student. I enjoy taking in new information and sorting and comparing it with information I’ve been told previously. My educational background in pursuing the dietitian title has enabled me to see “the matrix” of nutrition and health. That way I can help people not only in La Crosse, but hopefully anyone reading this as well!
Even though each client is on their own individual journey I’ve noticed some common themes that tend to dominate our discussions. One theme is I find myself doing a lot of myth busting and clearing the air on misconceptions that clients might have when it comes to food. There’s a lot of information available to us in our culture nowadays and not all of it is coming from reputable sources. That is what I want to be for you, a resource you can trust that the information is well researched not only in the literature but actually working with real people too!
Just like training, nutrition shouldn’t just be a cookie cutter approach. No, I’m not talking about what your perfect macro ratio should be or things like that. I am talking about more important issues to the individual. I set the tone in client sessions for taking a broader look at nutrition and I place a lot of emphasis on context with nutrition recommendations. We spend a lot of time going over the basics of nutrition such as what nutrients are, how much we need, where we can find them, and what they do in our bodies. Then I layer on how we would customize recommendations in different settings.
For example, we’ve all probably heard that in order to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. However, did you know that if you’re in too deep of a deficit, you can actually slow your metabolism down and cause your body to hold onto fat tissue? Well, how deep is too deep, you may be wondering! My infamous answer for a lot of client questions is usually “it depends!” because CONTEXT! My approach to answering this question would differ if the client is female vs. male, perimenopausal, or competitively active.
Here is a picture of what I call the priorities pyramid. This is something I have created based on what I’ve learned in classes, clinicals, and professional experience in addition to picking up pieces from other dietitians I follow. My approach when I meet with pretty much every client is going through this pyramid. I don’t necessarily bring it out and talk directly about it, but this is my thought process. At the bottom is priority number one. I want to ensure that my clients are adequately nourished in a broad sense. A lot of my clients come from places where diet culture has made them feel guilty or shamed for eating “too much.” They’re often left undernourished and experiencing symptoms like fatigue, low energy, weight loss resistance, increased anxiety/depression, and hormonal changes. This is where I spend time talking about calorie needs.
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Discussing calorie numbers can sometimes have clients feeling squirmy in their seat, so in some situations we don’t dive too deep into numbers. If that’s the case, then I focus on taking advantage of eating opportunities during the day to cross off nutrient needs. When I do talk numbers I take a more neutral approach and explain context, context, context. I jump into more of this context in my program, 10 Mistakes in Nutrition and Behavior Change! Usually the biggest takeaway for clients is a sense of freedom because they have a sense of permission to actually eat!
Once a client is eating enough, then we go a layer deeper (or a level up) with more detailed nourishment such as macronutrient recommendations. We’ve established they have energy (calorie) needs and now we talk about different combinations. There’s three macronutrients (sometimes called macros) carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Depending on different factors we need them in different ratios. These factors include client goals, type and level of activity, season of life, and any disease/conditions present to name a few.
The next step in the pyramid is fine tuning. This varies greatly from person to person, but could look something like nutrient timing with what to eat before/during/after a workout, tips for better blood sugar regulation, how to use food for fighting inflammation, and more!
Finally, at the top being the most specific is supplementation. I’m an advocate for “food first” in that I educate and encourage using food sources to meet nutrient needs. If a client is not able to get everything they need from food, then we will discuss how to include supplements to cross off needs.
I spell this all out here because we have to crawl before we can walk and walk before we can run. The same idea rings through with nutrition. If you only focus on supplements and neglect eating enough, then you’re doing your body a disservice. These things have to happen in sequential order for the most optimal impacts!
Now that you know better, let’s go out and do better, so we can all be better! 🙂
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