I don’t teach nutrition science like everyone else does.
I did at first. It was because I didn’t know better and I was new to teaching and was very afraid to “do it wrong” or tell my students the wrong things. I used that first nutrition science textbook to a “T,” and even when I saw things in there that didn’t make sense to me, I still used it (For example it was very obvious that some big food companies had a lot of influence over a lot of the content..like showing that boxed cereals were a good source of vitamins..hmmmmm).
I think I only used that textbook for the first year, then I stopped. I do credit it for the backbone of the course and how to structure it, but that’s it. Once I increased my confidence, and my own knowledge of the material, I didn’t need it anymore. I spent a lot more time reading journal and research articles and learning more from them, than that book.
Once I got rid of that book, and taught my course MY way and felt free to explain concepts to my students that felt aligned with what I have seen in actual experience and current research, actual human case studies, and back-to-basics-biochemistry, something happened. I started to really fall in LOVE with this course and my class. And I think my students felt it too. I taught more with confidence and I taught more from a place of passion (because I really love learning this stuff too!).
The course itself was always rooted in science. I bought old textbooks for Cellular biology and Biochemistry and taught myself how cells work, mechanics of metabolism and digestion, etc. What I found fascinating was that most of what you needed to know about nutrition was actually from these books. Understanding how each nutrient gets digested, absorbed, metabolized, etc. really does explain a lot to how to make your own food choices (I would imagine biochemists having the best understanding of food from this perspective alone!).
I also knew that everyone is different. Not everyone can eat the same way or the same things. But yet, traditional nutrition science courses does try to box people in to a certain way of eating (“lean protein is the best!” and “saturated fat is something you cannot eat at all!” “Must eat a lot of whole grains for fiber!”…..These statements might be exaggerated, but I hope you get my point).
My first indication of bio-individuality was when I solved my own health issues by basically going against the grain and doing one thing: Eating as much fat as I want. Which sounds so silly, but before that I was trying to do all the things that these traditional nutritionists were saying and it WAS NOT WORKING.
When keto just started to come around mainstream (like 6-ish years ago) and I started to read the science around fat and what your body does with it and experimented with it myself, something clicked for me: Just because other people thrive on perhaps a more carb heavy-vegetarian diet, or one with lean protein and focus on whole grains, that doesn’t mean that I do. And I didn’t. My face was still a mess. I was having massive heart palpitations all the time, and I was continuing to gain weight, not lose it (even though I spent every day at the gym for years). I needed to eat less carbs and sugar, and more animal meat and fat. When I made that switch, all those problems went away for me.
I am not saying that those styles of eating are not good and my way is the best way for everyone. It just proved to me at the time, that everyone is different. There is a reason why some people do excellent on a vegan diet vs an omnivore one. Or why some people’s problems are lifted by just eating breakfast. Not everyone’s health problems are solved by the same way of eating.
I added this element to my coursework. I was always very careful with explaining the science but I also stressed to my students that they need to use the science as a backbone to fully understand what works for them. I even had/have them do an assignment called “The Mindful Eating Paper,” where I literally make them track their food and nutrients for a week, in addition to a complete observation diary. I have them track their sleep, their energy, their physical symptoms, everything. Then I have them look at all their data and look for patterns and analyze them. Then write about it.
I love that assignment. Its my way of showing them how to eat that works for them. They still must use science to back up all their analysis (which they always do!), but it really is the first step in figuring out how to eat, because everyone is so different and I cannot just tell them exactly what to do. I get so much feedback at the end of the course telling me that that assignment alone opened up their eyes and helped them the most.
Now, I was doing all of this before I got trained as a holistic health coach. Those trainings were basically the cherry on top, because the school I got certified in, taught the same principal. After I got trained and certified, I also added the holistic element to my course. I explained more about overall health because its more than just food. I started doing more discussions, getting my students to think about their lives and their situations and what could be obstacles to them getting healthy.
I not only wanted them to learn nutrition science, but I wanted them to understand the big picture around why its so important to eat well. How it affects your daily life (like stress! and lack of sleep!).
I only ever taught what felt aligned in my heart. I got rid of everything that didn’t make sense or didn’t feel right to share. I am constantly learning more myself and including that information into my lectures.