Practical Nutrition

We once discussed weight-loss efforts with someone who was trying to lose over 100 lbs and had lost 14 pounds since joining a gym and hiring a trainer.  She was working-out two hours a day and was doing her best to follow her trainer’s advice on nutrition.  But she seemed distraught over her trainer’s nutrition recommendations.  She was willing to change her eating habits.  However, she was concerned about the cost of following the diet her trainer proposed.  She was already spending money on gym membership and a trainer and wasn’t sure if she could afford to put more time and money into eating “proper” nutrition.

Her trainer asked her to follow a diet that included a cup of strawberries ($4/lb) and a cup of blueberries ($8/lb) each day. We thought, why eat fruits like strawberries and blueberries in March, when they’re expensive?  After all, there’s a variety of produce available during March that provide, at a much lower cost, most of the same nutrition in strawberries and blueberries.

This woman had the will-power to lose weight and she wasn’t a picky eater.  She was willing to spend money on a gym membership and training sessions and went out of her way to find time to work-out.  She was willing to follow a regimented weight-loss diet that she was unfamiliar with. But her trainer made proper weight-loss nutrition an exorbitant cost for her.

She soon stopped going to the gym. We’re not sure if she stopped her weight-loss regimen.  If she did end her regimen, we wonder if the cost associated with following her trainer’s nutritional recommendations had anything to do with her decision.

Regardless of what really happened and the final outcome, this story can be used to illustrate one of the problems facing nutrition science.  Nutrition science, filtered through media outlets, tells us what we should eat to be healthy.  But this information isn’t localized or personalized to meet individual needs.  Nutrition science findings often aren’t disseminated in a way that takes into consideration individual circumstances.  Life-style magazines just tell  readers what they’re supposed to eat to lose weight and be healthy. But some people work 12 hours a day and don’t have time to prepare nutritionally dense produce.  Others can’t afford to purchase fashionable fruits and vegetables (of controversial value) like organic acai berries.  Most people don’t have the time and/or money to exactly follow nutrition science advice.

Nutrition science isn’t useless.  It just needs to be disseminated in a way that makes sense to individuals.  That requires getting people to understand nutrition concepts instead of thinking of nutrition science findings as directives.  Most people, because of time and/or economic constraints, can’t *follow* nutrition science directives.  It may be more effective to get people to *understand* nutrition concepts so they can make nutritional science information relevant and practical to their lives.

Just as not everyone can afford to drive the safest car available, not everyone has the time and income to eat the healthiest food.  But we believe many people can have the option to drive safer cars and to eat healthier foods.  Our goal is to improve lives, and not to make people live the ideal life.

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