Why Prepackaged Nutrition Puts You in a Box

You know how it goes when you attend a bridal or baby shower (you can tell what stage of life I’m in, huh?) or a dinner party, meeting new people, and the default question “So, what do you do?” enters conversation within the first 10 seconds? I have a love-hate relationship with that question. On the one hand, I love knowing what lights the fire of people I’m meeting for the first time. What is their spark? Their passion? On the other hand, I appreciate the bias we have as a culture, that our career defines our existence. What box can I put her in? This is one of the various reasons I really can’t believe I'm a nutritionist. I hate being put in a box… or maybe I just love surprising people: (most of the time) I don’t fit so neatly in the boxes they expect to put me in. Gap tees, jeans, straight brown hair, drive a Honda… plain-ish Jane. Have you put me in a box, yet? Fine with me. :)

Like the boxes we like to put people in socially, we also put people in boxes within the healthcare world. We often want to treat all diabetics with the same calorie-counting diet, give all cardiovascular patients the same “heart-healthy” oatmeal, avocado, almond and olive oil diet, and encourage all patients with cancer to just “eat as many calories as you can, it doesn't matter what they are.” But when it comes to our nutrition, one size does not fit all.

Individualized or personalized nutrition care is about looking at the whole person from a biochemical perspective (What level of vitamin D does she have? What might her cholesterol labs tell me?), from a lifestyle perspective (How many hours during the day is she sedentary? Does she have support from family and friends?), from a dietary history perspective (How has she been eating throughout her life up to this point? What might be missing that could contribute to her health status?), from a stress and sleep perspective (What stressors could affect her health and nutrition choices?), and from a genetic perspective (What is her family history? Can her genetics help tailor our nutrition plan?).

The above are all questions I regularly ask myself as I’m assessing someone. And, the answers come together to form a holistic picture of what that person might need, nutritionally. You are more than what you eat: you are what you can absorb, you are what you prefer, you are what your parents passed down to you, you are what your favorite (and least favorite) foods are…

You are… You.