The Emotional Side of Nutritional Coaching

13th October 2016by victoriafenton1

There are so many voices on the internet that contribute to what is now an information overload about nutrition, functional medicine, physiological testing, medical diagnostics and healthcare.  True, many of them are either regurgitating old information, or are total nonsense – but a lot of them are actually excellent resources for keeping abreast of the modern, cutting-edge developments in this field.

Running my own business and dealing with my clients, I have realised that I am never going to be the person who spends hours on PubMed weeding out the latest gems of research from the plethora of studies and bringing to light that which is most clinically relevant for my audience.

Instead, there are exceptional pioneers out there who have teams to support them in their efforts to do just that:

www.drruscio.com – for the latest about microbiota research and/or thyroid health and general Functional Medicine practices

www.chriskresser.com – for the sustainable ancestral health model, the latest research into topics we think we know about (Omega 3s and Vitamin D etc.) and a generalised view of leaky gut and its link to everything “health”

www.robbwolf.com – baseline Paleo (i.e. the original template for the ancestral diet) and about healing the gut, inflammation and a really insightful look at essential nutritional principles.  Also good on gluten and autoimmunity

www.chrismasterjohnphd.com – for the pragmatic and practical, scientific view on the latest ‘zeitgeist’ supplementation and/or dietary models

www.nourishbalancethrive.com – more of a podcast-fest, but everything to do with ketosis/low carb for exercising, and a real geek-out on the baseline testing you can run for looking into performance and/or health

www.bengreenfieldfitness.com – anything exercise, health, radical healing strategies, medicinal mushrooms, supplements… actually I don’t think there is a health topic that you won’t find covered here

www.bulletproofexec.com – OK, this one is quite controversial, but there is a lot of information and detail on here about inflammation, higher fat diets (the latest craze in modern healthcare) and all things ‘biohacking’

And there are many more.

I, like many of my clients, make use of these professionals with their vast resources of research, reach and man-power.  Through staying in the loop with these guys, I can continually expand my awareness of clinical evolution, scientific developments and novel ways to offer healthcare services to others.

What About Me?

What I don’t often see on the internet is balance, pragmatism and a moderate approach (with the possible exception of Chris Masterjohn mentioned above).  Whilst all of the sites mentioned above try hard not to be evangelical about things, they are all coming from a specific point of view, and they all cover the physical elements of becoming healthy.

They also aren’t completely open with some of the honest truths about health and wellbeing…

This honest truth is that the answers to most general health-related questions (whether about supplements, illnesses, diets, protocols, treatments, studies or just questions that begin with “will this work for…”) are as follows:

  1. It depends
  2. Sometimes we just don’t know
  3. We haven’t quite worked it out yet
  4. Well perhaps, but your mindset and attitude is also massively more important than you might think

The Mind Piece

Because of the first three bullet-points above, the last bullet is perhaps the most important.  A lot of the time in health there isn’t a predictable outcome to a treatment model, and certainly not one that is universally applicable.

And so this last bullet-point is the realm where I continually find myself straying, possibly partly because of my counselling background.

But actually, my focus on mindset, attitude, self-evaluation and the emotional factors surrounding health issues emerges out of both my personal and professional experience.  Whilst I deeply understand the body, and the building blocks required to establish the full health that it is capable of, I am also acutely aware that the body is not just a physical system.  It is not even, as Functional Medicine might promote, just a complex interwoven web of multiple physical systems.

Instead, the body and all of the systems within it are integrated with both a realm of mental thought and also the world of the emotions.

It’s funny because the mental landscape, the way the neurons of our brains fire and the ability to experience joy, pleasure, pain and depression, are actually very biochemical.

And yet our capacity to seek truth, to understand the mechanisms behind these emotions and to even find the will to pursue health in the first place has an enormous mental and emotional component.

There is a great truth to the concept that to have the right neurotransmitters and building blocks to make thought and to develop the sensations of emotion you must have all essential nutrients, fats, proteins, amino acids and vitamins from your diet and/or supplemental intake.

But this is not enough.  Even the right building blocks will be useless in the hands of someone obstructed by their impression of reality, the world, themselves or their own capacity to be well.  These impressions come from our mental and emotional heritage, and from our perception of the world based in our experiences of it during our life.

The more I practice, the more I recognise the mind’s power to thwart and obstruct our capacity to be healthy – whether that is through being stuck in old thought processes, or through guilt, shame or the memories and wounds of old traumas.  The power of the mental and emotional worlds can completely prevent us from reducing inflammation, decreasing stress, managing hormones and blood chemistry, and, ultimately, becoming healthy.

My Role As A Practitioner

It has always been my job to take test results and work as a detective to mine through them alongside taking a case history and understanding the symptom pattern of my clients.  But those clients will testify that I rarely just read a report and tell them what to eat, take or do.

Instead, I use everything they tell me to build up a story – and I recognise that whatever physical story I am being told, no individual’s health issues are just about their body.

Some clients are surprised when I start to explain their present in the context of how their history has led to this moment, but that is a key part of the way I do my job.  I will explain to clients what I see to be the developmental trajectory of their health issues over time.

Each client’s storyline includes physical issues and/or events, but they also include emotional issues and life circumstances.  The body never gets hurt or fails in isolation – it always does this with a complexity of emotional burden and feelings or thoughts about oneself that are deeply affecting.  Left un-checked, these thoughts and feelings have the power to prolong illness, undermine healing and prevent the wellbeing of every individual.

In many cases there is nutritional support at the root of all of my work – because you can’t think straight if your body is fighting allergens, inflammatory foods and toxins 24/7.

But there is a reason I labelled myself as a “Functional Nutrition Coach”.

In almost all cases I am counselling and supporting my patients to a place of understanding, compassion and self-awareness which empowers their body to heal itself.  Given the right nutrients – which includes both nutrition AND emotional self-care – the body and mind are able to work together to effect change and to bring about health.

Why Write This Blog?

I explain all of the above partly to absolve myself of any responsibility to write incredibly clinical, cold, scientific blogs in the future.

But I also write this by way of explaining my ethos and approach to clients, to ensure that I attract the right people: those who recognise that a journey to health isn’t just about taking the right supplements and being incredibly specific about their diet.

Health may be founded on good nutrition, but is also often demands that you discover the reasons why you became unhealthy, and also that you deal with the emotions that arose when that happened.  I work as a coach, counsellor, taskmaster and ally to help my clients work through all of these things and deal with them.  And then, move on.

If this kind of approach is something that resonates with you, do jump over here and send me a message or comment, or ask a question.  Or if you’d just like to book in a call or to see me – that’s the consultations page here.

I look forward to hearing from you and helping you on your health journey…


One comment

  • Micki Rose

    15th October 2016 at 10:56 am

    Absolutely right, Victoria. I was only chuntering this morning at the very narrow focus in nutritional – functional – medicine nowadays despite its broad-brush appearance, same with epigenetics, and getting my hair off with it lol! They have a part to play obviously and are very useful at the building blocks stuff but we miss out the emotional and environmental connection side at our peril with patients. Most naturopathic practitioners of course know this and have been doing it for many years, myself included, but the emphasis currently on epigenetics and functional medicine – and the very many summits around now based on those – have skewed people’s perceptions and not least some clinicians’ viewpoints and approaches IMHO. I mourn the days where it was more simple and naturopathic. I, for one, predict a return to a simpler approach in the next couple of years, albeit using the new personalised medicine knowledge we have, so we will ultimately get the best of both worlds and that’s as it should be, but it has all become too much like mainstream medicine for me currently! Maybe I’m just getting old!! Oh sorry, I ranted a bit there lol!! Nice post 🙂

    Reply

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