Ask a Health Coach: Who’s Nutrition Advice Should I Follow?

woman shopping with nutrition appHi folks! PHCI Curriculum Director, Erin Power is here for another round of Ask a Health Coach. Today, she’ll be answering your questions about popular weight-loss apps, navigating your doctor’s advice, and what to do when your friends and family chime in on your goals. We love getting your questions, so keep them coming over in our Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook Group or in the comments below.

Sonya asked:

“I’m considering signing up for one of those weight-loss apps like Weight Watchers or Noom. I’ve got about 45 pounds to lose and I could really use a structured plan to help me get on track this year. What’s your take on programs like that?”


As a society, we have a lot of un-learning to do about how to lose weight. Honestly, we’ve made it a lot fussier than it needs to be. Apps like those are designed to tap into the messages we’ve been bombarded with on a daily basis about tracking what we put in our mouths under the guise that it’s helping us live a “balanced” life.

I don’t like it. How on Earth is obsessing about what you’re consuming 24/7 called balance? From what I understand, some of the new changes Weight Watchers (or WW as it’s now called) has implemented move away from pure weight loss into more of general wellness. Even still, all the points and tracking and ups and downs of equating calories consumed to calories burned is a journey I don’t want to be on.

Noom is slightly better since it teaches you to be accountable for your own choices, focusing on education and the psychological factors of behavior change. As a health coach, I wholeheartedly believe these are important elements for long-term fat loss. However, the app still labels foods with a green, yellow, or red rating scale. It’s not as dramatic as calling foods “good” or “bad” but it does walk a fine line on the subject.

Here’s the deal with both options. Whichever you go with, you actually have to use them consistently. Sometimes, paying for a service is motivation enough to follow through, but often times, the only thing that gets lighter is your bank account.

Today’s diet culture has coerced many people into believing that every morsel needs to be micromanaged down to the last crumb (trust me, it doesn’t). And contrary to what you might be telling yourself right now, your body really does know how to lose weight on its own. It’s just forgotten how to do so.

Your body is a metabolically miraculous being — and when you learn a few game changing strategies, you won’t need an app, food scale, or tracking system to help you lose weight.

1. Believe that you can do it. Psychologically speaking, this is known as self-efficacy. Do a little self-reflection with me. When you think about reaching your weight loss goal, what comes to mind? If you feel wishy-washy about how capable you are of achieving results, practice the steps laid out in this post.

2. Be open to un-learning what you know. If all the things you’ve been doing worked, you wouldn’t be here right now, so consider dropping the diet culture mentality and everything that comes with it including counting calories, depriving yourself, and ignoring your hunger signals.

3. Respect the miracle your body is. The human body is the most elegant piece of technology ever crafted with thousands of processes occurring all day, every day, affecting your breathing, your thoughts, and your metabolism, so give it some love and respect already.

4. When you’re hungry, eat a meal. Grazing all day isn’t doing your metabolism any favors. So instead of micromanaging the drive-by crackers or light yogurts you’re consuming, sit down for a protein-packed meal complete with lots of healthy fats.

Joseph asked:

“After a health scare last month, my doctor recommended I switch to a vegetarian diet and watch my fats. I know his recommendations are outdated and at odds with the Primal Blueprint, but I can’t help but worry about ignoring his advice. Any thoughts?”

Diet “categories” can be so controversial, can’t they? Vegetarian, vegan, low-fat, high-fat. Diet is almost as divisive as talking about politics or religion. Unless your doctor is equipped to advise on the connection between food and health (less than 14% of physicians say they are), it’s unlikely that he has the knowledge to make the proper recommendations for your specific health situation.1

Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke are the leading causes of death in the United States — and they’re all closely linked to diet and nutrition, so you’re right to be concerned about whose advice to follow.2 Problem is, there’s tons of misinformation out there about the “best way” to eat3 Even high-profile docs like Dean Ornish stand by their low-fat approach. Just FYI, you need healthy fats to stay satiated, for good hormone balance and brain health, to reduce inflammation in the body, plus a myriad of other reasons.

That being said, flat-out ignoring your doc’s advice can be dangerous. In a perfect scenario, you’d have a collaborative relationship, one where you can talk freely about your dietary choices and why you believe they’re best for your health. Maybe you even cite a few studies to back up your point-of-view.4 An open discussion might lead to you realizing that you’re eating a ton of processed foods or consuming more sugar than is optimal. Or maybe you’re skimping on water. Who knows?

Any and all information is valuable when making these kinds of decisions and completely handing over the responsibility of your health to another person (professional or not) isn’t in your best interest. Keep in mind that a good physician will be open to discussing all the pieces of the puzzle with you.

Sam asked:

“Thanks to quarantine, I’m carrying around an extra 15 pounds right now. My neighbor is doing a dry January and thinks that might be just what I need to kick start my weight loss. My gut tells me I should have more of a long-term plan, but my neighbor has already lost weight and it’s only been a week! Who’s right here?”

Essentially, you’re both right. Eliminating alcohol will help you drop weight because you’re consuming fewer calories (that turn right to sugar), plus any buzz-induced snacking that might ensue. But what happens when dry January is over, and your regularly scheduled activities return? Just by the nature of restriction, you can begin what’s called a binge-abstinence cycle, which can be just as damaging.

Whether you do it with alcohol or food, extreme restriction is a typically a recipe for a relapse.5 And if you’re addicted to one of these things, there’s a high expectation that your old behaviours (and pounds) will come back more intensely than before.

On the flip side, going a whole month without your favorite drink might allow you to recognize some patterns in your life. Like how you cope with stress. How you feel in social situations. How you separate the hours between daytime and nighttime during COVID.6

Sometimes you don’t realize what your habits are until you remove something from the equation. So, in that regard, doing a dry January might kick start your weight loss and help reset some of those habits that caused you to gain weight in the first place.

To come full circle, your gut instinct is right. Doing something for a month won’t likely trigger new lifelong habits. But having a long-term plan, one where you set clear goals, slowly establish new habits, hold yourself accountable, and focus on progress instead of perfection, you’ll be the one flaunting your weight loss. Heck, you might even be drinking a beer doing it.

Do you agree? What tips do you have for adhering to or ignoring different nutrition advice?

TAGS:  goals, weight loss

About the Author

Erin Power

Erin Power is an NBHWC board-certified health coach and the Coaching and Curriculum Director for Primal Health Coach Institute. She’s also the co-host of Health Coach Radio, the podcast by health coaches, for health coaches. Erin lives outside of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on a hobby farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

If you have a passion for health and wellness and a desire to help people like Erin does, consider becoming a certified health coach yourself. Learn the 3 simple steps to building a successful health coaching business in 6 months or less in this special info session hosted by Primal Health Coach Institute co-founder Mark Sisson.

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