Diary of a Student Nutritionist - Week 12 - Obesity and Eating Disorders

This lecture was really important for me as I felt very nervous about what I would need to do to support someone with obesity and/or an eating disorder.


This is a very interesting subject and one that facinates me. There is huge difference between the recommendations from slimming groups/general society beliefs to that recommended by a nutritionist. For example, one slimming group leads customers to believe that sugar free drinks are ok to drink because they contain no sugar....however, they contain sweeteners. While sweeteners are sugar free they create a sweet taste in the mouth, this sends a signal to the body to prepare for incoming sugar. This is a bit like when you smell warm donuts and you begin to salivate. So when you get this sweet taste you body releases insulin, which circulates in the blood but with no sugar to take into the cells. Over time this can lead to insulin resistance.

Another big difference is that nutritionists will work over a longer period of time helping the client to create a lifestyle change that they will be able to stick to and not feel restricted on. It isn't as simple as creating a food plan to follow and having bad and good foods but rather finding a way to have a bit of everything you enjoy while also improving overall health.

It was really interesting to learn that obesity is not always due to over eating and for some obesity and be caused by undereating....who knew! One reason for this is that if a person skips meals or has a very chaotic diet the body always prepares for the famine states by keeping/continuing to store reserves just incase. It is not until someone eats consistently and reduces stressors on the body that it feels the threat has passed and released the excess reserves.

Lifestyle changes is a huge part of supporting someone with obesity and I don't just mean diet and exercise. One interesting example I had not thought about before starting the course is that fat reserves are a great place to store toxins that might overwhelm the body if they are not removed. Therefore, if someone is exposed to lots of toxins their body may store it away in fat for safety. This is not something many people would consider but physiologically it makes a lot of sense.

Here is an example, Sandra sleeps in a bed with sheets that are heavily perfumed with fabric softener, she gets up and goes into the bathroom for a shower. The water she bathes in contains chlorine as well as many other chemicals which not only touches her skin but is also vaporised as steam and she breathes this in, she then washes herself with shampoo, conditioner, face and body wash all of which contain many chemicals. She gets out of the shower and dries herself off with a towel also heavility scented with fabric softener and applies a scented body lotion followed by some perfume. Sandra then applies her make up before heading downstairs for a coffee and a cereal bar. She then heads off to work in her car where she sits in traffic for 30 minutes. Sandra is a hairdresser by trade and all day long she washes, dyes and styles peoples hair with a great range of products. After work Sandra drives back home and enjoys a few glasses of wine to help her relax after a busy day, lights a scented candle and enjoys the comfort of her new sofa thatis offgassing fire protectant.

If we think of all of the chemicals we put on our body, breath in, eat and drink throughout a day, they mount up very fast. There are some professions where there are a greater amount of chemicals such as farmers, artists, hairdressers, beauticians etc but for many their house already contain enough toxins to affect their health. This is just one lifestyle factor that can affect fat accumulation and to think there are so many more that are not known by the majority of the population.

It is a really good idea to work with a nutritionist with obesity, especially one who specialises in this area so that they are aware of all the little lifestyle changes that can have life changing affects on health. Everyones body is very different so plans needs to be tailored to the individual based on their lifestyle, culture, genetics, long term goals, etc. I can now see why so many arguments break out over keto vs vegan vs fasting as they will only work for certain individuals.

Eating Disorders

One thing that became very clear from the lecture was that you would need to specialise to be able work with clients with eating disorders. I already knew that when starting out as a nutritionist I would need to refer the case on but I now have a greater understanding of why. This can range from the types of foods you can recommend, the amount, the language you use, the coaching skills required, etc. You would ideally also work as part of a larger group of pracitioners in a range of fields to be able to really support someone professionally. I am really pleased that we covered a range of eating disorders as some of them I was not aware of before. This is certainly an area I could do with researching further so that I am able to spot warning signs and known when I can support a client or when I need to refer them on.

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