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Food advice for a price

(article, Kim Carlson)

Beginning this summer, it will be illegal in Michigan to offer paid advice about nutrition unless you’re a licensed nutritionist — even if the advice you’re giving is as innocuous as “Consume organic produce and proteins such as grass-fed beef.” 

According to a recent article in BusinessWeek, the Michigan Dietetic Association (MDA) lobbied to have a law passed that will, depending upon your point of view, either protect consumers from unscrupulous practitioners or senselessly exclude businesses such as that owned by Julie Kowalski, who provides shopping services, cooking classes, and meal plans to busy customers: 

bq(blue). “People who come to my cooking classes are going into their cupboards and throwing away processed foods and substituting real foods," she says. "Will I no longer be able to encourage people to do that?"

Kowalski doesn’t want to join the MDA for practical reasons (she’s self-taught and, at 50, doesn’t want to get the necessary degree), but also she stands in philosophical disagreement with the association: 

bq(blue). She especially bridles at such policies as its approval of pasta consumption as a way to encourage low-fat diets, and its sanctioning of artificial sweeteners and other processed food.

In the BusinessWeek article, Kowalski doesn't call herself a nutrition coach, but her services sound a lot like those offered by professionals who label themselves as just that. An article in the New York Times explores the phenomenon and success of such coaches, who provide individualized consultation to help people eat better and feel healthier. 

One woman, who’s lost more than 150 pounds with the help of a coach, is keeping it off, too: 

bq(blue). “I know now how to make food work for me,” she said. “I’ve introduced myself to new foods and learned where the hidden calories are,” she added. “I know how to better combine foods, like proteins and carbs. What Brian is teaching me is a lifetime skill, not a quick fix. It’s literally changed my life.”

The prices such coaches command are high: typically $100 to $300 per hour, depending on the exact services offered. But as the article points out, clients like the service because they like the satisfaction of success.

And success isn’t usually what people trying to lose weight and keep it off experience. According to a recent Associated Press article, most people who lose weight by dieting gain it back again:

bq(blue). People who lose too much too soon don't learn to make the overall lifestyle changes — eating more healthful foods and exercising regularly — that are necessary to keep their weight stable.

Maybe more people need coaches who dog them in their routines. That, and not to live in Michigan.