If there’s one thing I’ve been transparent about, it’s been my weight loss and fitness journey. In an effort to continue that transparency, I’m going to discuss my recent visit with a dietitian.
It’s important to understand the difference between a “nutritionist” and a “dietitian.”
A dietitian is “a health professional who has university qualifications consisting of a 4-year Bachelor Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics or a 3-year Science Degree followed by a Master Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, including a certain period of practical training in different hospital and community settings (in the U.S. 1200 hours of supervised practice are required in different areas).” (Source)
A nutritionist is a non-accredited title that may apply to somebody who has done a short course in nutrition or who has given themselves this title. The term Nutritionist is not protected by law in almost all countries so people with different levels of and knowledge can call themselves a “Nutritionist”. (Source)
Why did I decide to see a dietitian?
I was curious.
As I study to take my personal training exam next month, I’ve been reading a lot about the body’s mechanics, it’s energy sources, and how it repairs itself. Learning what, exactly, is happening to my body when I load it with weight during a lifting session versus when I’m taking a barre class or going for a run propelled me to look closer at my diet and whether it was still meeting my nutritional needs.
I’ve eaten at a calorie deficit for a long time. I use MyFitnessPal to log my food and workouts. MFP has users self-identify their activity level and weight goals, and provides a recommend calorie goal based on their selections. While this worked for me a year ago, I’ve struggled with its goal setting in recent months. Because I work a desk job, MFP says I should choose “sedentary” as my lifestyle, despite my side hustle teaching barre and group fitness classes. It set me to net 1,2oo calories a day.
I was hungry for nearly a month straight.
After changing my lifestyle to “active,” (“Spend a good part of the day doing some physical activity (e.g. waitress, mailman)”), I was given 1,540 calories a day.
I’m slightly less hungry. But still, hungry.
But that’s the problem I’ve been facing – eating ENOUGH.
Day after day, I don’t net the caloric goal. I tried netting 1,800 calories for a couple of weeks per the recommendation from the folks at Complete Nutrition and was overwhelmed. Who knew it would be so hard to EAT MORE? Frustrated, I made an appointment with a dietitian in hopes that she could help me map out a plan.
It’s terrifying to open your food diary up to anyone, let alone a stranger. I eat mostly clean, and mostly gluten-free, but I had a deep rooted and perhaps irrational fear that she was going to say “you have GOT to stop it with peanut butter.” I kind of love peanut butter.
Good news – she didn’t take away my peanut butter.
She did, however, help me develop better nutritional goals. We talked at length about my workouts, my goals, and the type of foods I’ve been eating. She advised me to stop counting calories and start counting macros. “Macronutrients” are the three main nutrients needed by the human body: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. My dietitian helped me calculate my macro split – 40% protein, 30% carbs, and 30% healthy fats for now – and for the next two weeks, I’m not to count calories, just macros.
As it turns out, I’m very much not eating enough.
For someone who has counted calories for so long, it’s a mind game to see those “big” (read – normal) calorie numbers at the end of the day as I try to reach 110g of protein. After more than a year of netting 1,200 on a good day, it’s a mind trip to see a number like 2,000 calories consumed. It’s also hard for me to eat carbs after so long of avoiding them under the “carbs are bad” mentality. I’m not eating a loaf of bread and a dish of lasagna a day, but I added in some carbs and saw the difference in energy levels after just a few days.
I’ll go back in another couple of weeks to reassess, but in the meantime, I’m finding it far easier – and healthier – to count macros.
And I definitely don’t hate eating carbs again. Who knew a slice of wheat toast slathered in nut butter could be so good?