By Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN
Keri Glassman is one of the most well known nutritionists in the country — she's the founder of Nutritious Life, she coaches personal nutrition clients in her NYC office, and is also a regular nutrition expert on shows like The Today Show and Dr Oz. She's a contributing editor and on the advisory board for Yahoo Health and Women’s Health magazine, and has a weekly column in People magazine. Enter Keri’s Nutrition School, a 12-week course to help the next generation of nutritionists reach the top of their game. Keri tells us what it means to be a nutritionist, and what The Nutrition School is all about.
You are a registered dietitian and a nutritionist, and have even been referred to as "America's nutritionist." So, what does a nutritionist do exactly?
Good question! I think most nutritionists will agree that we are part life coach, therapist, nutrition educator, and food lover. Every nutritionist works differently, but for the most part a nutritionist educates people on food and its role in their lives. (What to eat for weight loss, why and what to avoid to prevent heart disease, how to handle emotional eating, improve energy, what you must put in your mouth for glowing skin etc.) A nutritionist also inspires people to put this education into action (how to get that kale versus French fries on the plate), and then supports them as they put this into action (acts as their phone-a-friend when in a tough food situation).
What does a session with a client look like? And is the nutritional approach always the same, or varies based on the person?
The first session will look different from the second session, which will also look different from the additional follow-ups. During a typical first session with someone, I spend a whole lot of time gathering a whole lot of info — kind of like nutrition/therapist meets journalist. And, this isn’t just about diet history and food likes and dislikes. I ask all about the other factors that I always say make up a Nutritious Life. So, I’m asking about relationships, how organized their closet is, are they a night owl, etc. I usually send people home after the first session with a few tips/to-do’s/goals, and often these have nothing to do with food. A goal could be to create a new sleep practice, to be consistent with drinking 2 cups of green tea, or to commit to their 4 days of exercise plan for the week. In the second session, I give a plan/guide, whatever you want to call it — I create a complete nutrition road map.
I have a set approach with a specific philosophy and style, but I always adjust depending upon the individual. That’s why someone comes to a dietitian/nutritionist — anyone can read a book, but when you work with someone, you expect customization for YOU and YOU should get it.
Do different nutritionists have different philosophies towards eating?
Absolutely! And, that’s what makes the world go round! Choosing the right nutritionist for you is as much about the philosophy as it is about personality. All nutritionists have their own philosophy and personality, and as a client you need to connect with someone on both levels. For example, I don’t believe in counting calories. Other dietitians may want their clients to tally up everything they eat. It’s a fundamental difference in philosophies, and you have to figure out if that philosophy works for you. On the personality note, you may want a tough drill sergeant or you may prefer more of a nurturing type.
How has proper knowledge on nutrition changed your life? How have you seen it change others lives?
We have all been studying nutrition a little our whole lives. We all eat! Some of us have just been studying it more than others. My love of food and nutrition started way back…
I was BORN to do what I am doing. My childhood friend tells me she remembers me being in Mr. S's 7th grade science class and saying, "My body is craving vitamin E, I am going to eat almonds!" Was I that dorky?!? I guess so. But, clearly nutrition and being GOOD to my body (not simply "dieting") was innate. I don't have the story of being 50 or 100 pounds overweight and learning to like healthy food and changing my life. I always liked healthy food (and junk too!!) and I always liked to exercise — but I struggled big time with 15 or so pounds that made me "mental." As I say to my clients, 5 pounds or 105 pounds overweight, if you battle with being "on" or "off" a diet and that “all or nothing” attitude, you know the emotional drain is all the same. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I truly conquered the emotional part of eating. (By the way, that’s not to say a Levain Bakery cookie is never eaten after a rough day!)
Why do we have such a love/hate relationship with food at times, and how can we change/embrace that?
Food is love. Food is history. Food is culture. Food is medicine. Food is delicious. We love it. But we hate what it can do to us. We don’t need to hate it! It can be a love/love relationship. That is what I LOVE to help people do — shift to a love/love versus a love/hate relationship. I always say, it’s not just about the food! No relationship is perfect, but this one can be a really good one. When people realize that food is not the enemy, but rather other things in their lives that are causing them to abuse food, they can finally get on the path to having a healthy relationship with food. Also, I often talk about flipping the switch. When people change their way of thinking from “I CAN’T have the chocolate cake” to “I CAN have the blueberries” they are switching from a negative place to an empowered place.
As people interested in leading healthy lives, of course we are also interested in healthy eating. Past that, what would make someone want to train to be a nutritionist?
The most simple but probably accurate answer is that nutritionists love to help people. We help people conquer emotional and medical issues related to food, and make a difference in others' lives, our own lives, and even sometimes the world! Athletes need to be fueled, diseases need to be healed, bodies need to be nourished, relationships need to be celebrated, events need to be memorable, lives need to be meaningful. Food participates in all these things. Also, I think most of us have a little science geek meets food lover (often meets fitness enthusiast!) in us. If that sounds like you, then the nutrition world could use you.
Hence, The Nutrition School. Is your online nutrition school meant for someone new to the profession, or someone already established in their nutritionist career?
The Nutrition School takes applications from everyone who has a passion for nutrition, health, and wellness, and wants to help others live a more nutritious life. We have students contemplating a career change in health, to fitness professionals, to experienced registered dietitians. When I started my practice, I created a very specific methodology that made it easier for me to be the best nutritionist I could be (it kept me accountable - something important as an entrepreneur!), and helpful for the client to be successful. As I hired dietitians over the years, they studied my methodology and became Nutritious Life Certified in order to work in my office. It was a dream from the beginning to be able to share this philosophy and methodology online for other wellness professionals who were looking for some career direction. If I can help others avoid the mistakes I made over the years, teach them my successes to expedite their own successes, and give them a road map to help them and their own clients reach their goals, then I have truly accomplished my original Nutritious Life mission — to help as many people as possible take their nutrition up as many notches as possible.
What do you need to know to be a successful nutritionist in today's health and wellness landscape?
#1 Solid education - I can’t stress enough how important it is to have solid education, degree(s), and/or certification(s).
#2 Passion - Ideally, we are all passionate about whatever our career choice is. But in the field of health and wellness, I think it is even more critical.
#3 Your own voice - We all have access to the same research, but we can all have our own vibe, our own take, and our own way of sharing real, solid info. Create your own voice and message. You are the only YOU!
Keri Glassman is the founder and president of Keri Glassman, Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice in New York City, as well as The Nutrition School, a 12-week online course created to provide an unprecedented nutrition education and a springboard for building a successful career as a nutritionist. She is on the advisory board for Yahoo Health, is a contributing editor and advisory board member for Women’s Health Magazine, the Health and Wellness partner for JW Marriott hotels, and contributes monthly to Livestrong.com and Foodnetwork.com.
Keri was Lead Nutritionist for Turner’s health and wellness entertainment brand, Upwave, and the Nutritionist and Judge on the healthy cooking competition show, “Cook Your Ass Off.” She has authored four books, including The New You, Improved Diet, and The O2 Diet. Keri is regularly featured on national television programs including The Today Show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live. She is a spokesperson for national brands that align with the Nutritious Life mission, and is a prolific writer and commentator for many media outlets. Keri resides in New York City with her children, Rex and Maizy.