Nutritional enlightenment

I learned simple was better.

“Many clients come in drowning in [diet information]. Cognitive strategies that add complexity, like a bunch of “rules” to follow, inevitably fail because they’re overwhelming and completely ignore how our bodies work and respond. I’ve seen that it’s the simple practices that can transform people’s bodies. I start by telling clients to eat slowly without distractions. Try it. You’ll be astonished how listening to your body cues dials down stress and makes it possible to trust yourself with food.”

—Krista Scott-Dixon, Ph.D, a coach and director of curriculum development at Precision Nutrition in Vancouver, BC

I don’t preach dieting.

“After learning about the Health at Every Size (HAES) approach, I realized that the work I was doing was not only not helping people, but potentially harming them. I made the switch towards a non-diet approach. Instead of advocating for counting calories, measuring portions, or avoiding certain foods, I now focus on internal factors such as hunger, fullness, and satisfaction and promote the enjoyment of all foods, free of guilt or judgment. I focus on nurturing habits and behaviors to enhance wellbeing rather than the pursuit of weight loss.”

Alissa Rumsey, CSCS, a registered dietician and nutrition therapist based in New York City

I encourage eating enough.

“I started doing high intensity workouts and it made me appreciate the need for quantity of food, especially as I worked with a ton of clients and saw their blood work. They were low in magnesium, a mineral that helps with muscle recovery, stress management, and sleep [and can be found in ingredients like leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and salmon]. They weren’t eating enough fish for omega-3 fatty acids, even though the recommendations are just twice a week. And because of this low-carb kick everyone’s on, I discovered via food tracking that they weren’t eating enough healthy carbs, something that negatively affects performance by slowing recovery, increasing cortisol, and leading to lower energy levels. Recognizing that many were overtrained and undernourished, my focus became teaching meal planning and providing recipes to help clients improve not just the quality of their diet but the quantity, too.”

Laura Ligos, CSSD, a registered dietician in Albany, New York

I realized fat can fuel.

"A big aha moment for me was when I realized that ingesting fat-rich snacks, such as string cheese or Greek yogurt with mixed nuts, prior to working out allowed some of my athletes to train harder and longer. Most of the literature in sports nutrition will tell you to stay away from [this macronutrient] around workout times because of the effect it would have on delaying gastric emptying, or essentially slowing down the rate in which food would leave the stomach. I'm in complete agreement that too much [fat] would be bad for performance. However, some athletes don't do well with rapidly digesting carbohydrates like juice, gels, and other processed sugars because they feel still hungry after. It was a good realization that we must test things out and see what works for ourselves."

—Adam Feit, MS, CSCS*D, a performance nutrition coordinator at Precision Nutrition in Asbury Park, New Jersey

I learned that I don't need to eat at the first sign of hunger.

"I used to be afraid I would 'lose muscle' if I ate less when I was carrying a lot of fat. I experimented with various forms of fasting and had my body composition tested as I did so. I did not lose muscle. What I learned was that I was telling myself this story because I was afraid of being hungry. After fasting several times, I learned that I do not need to drop everything and eat at the first growl of my stomach. Now, I often have clients sit with hunger for periods of time and observe how they feel, perform, and think."

—Dominic Matteo, a level 2 masterclass instructor at Precision Nutrition in Cleveland

I no longer fear carbs.

“Before, I was ‘scientifically’ convinced that multiple servings of complex carbohydrates in a day would inevitably result in weight gain. After our practice shifted to an intuitive eating approach, it allowed me to find my own food freedom and liberalize, specifically, my carbohydrate intake. I can happily enjoy oatmeal in the morning, sweet potato at lunch, and buckwheat at dinner in a joyous, peaceful, nourishing manner.”

Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, a registered dietician nutritionist based in Miami

I learned the power of omega-3s.

“I noticed that many of my female clients were complaining of cramps before their period, which would put a damper on their ability to be active. So I considered what I could do for them nutritionally. There’s research showing that omega-3s can help reduce pain, specifically period pain. During those times of the month, I now recommend eating more of the nutrient in the form of salmon, flaxseeds, or walnuts. This addition has helped them squash some symptoms and carry on with their day.”

Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, MS, a registered dietician nutritionist based in New York City

These interviews have been edited and condensed for publication.