A medical graduate from Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Dr Simran Saini, a fitness-freak herself, decided to launch a crusade against lifestyle diseases by advising people to eat right and stay healthy.
To improve her knowledge in the field, she enrolled for a one- year correspondence certificate course in nutrition dietetics at a private institute. Later, setting up a freelance practice at home, she achieved some spectacular results wth two clients. After they followed her diet charts “those two people were able to lose weight, they were ecstatic and really appreciated how I had worked with them. That was when I realised that it was not just about helping someone lose weight. As a nutritionist, I can change the way they start looking at themselves, the food and the nutrition they derive from it, to be happy and healthy,” says Saini.
This sense of satisfaction of being able to bring about a positive change in the lives of people drove her to pursue her studies in dietary counselling from the Institute of Health Sciences, Ireland.
With increasing awareness of the importance of good nutrition, more and more people in India are turning to nutrition experts for a healthy and disease-free life. In recent times, especially, young people are extremely keen stay fit and look good. They are increasingly becoming cautious about what they eat and how they look.
Nutritionists and diet counsellors guide people on what to eat, the calorie intake and food combinations based on an individual’s choice and body requirements.
Anyone can have access to a professional nutritionist today. “We earlier had high-end clients coming for consultancy. The situation is totally different now. With increasing awareness of maintaining good health, low and middle income people too have joined the race to stay fit. People understand the importance of nutrition now and do not hesitate to spend money,” says Saini, who has been practising since 2000.
So, what do nutritionists do? They first hold consultations with clients and educate them on the diet programme, services they would be provided as part of the plan, the duration and the number of diet counselling sessions. Following this, they prepare weekly diet plans for the client and assess their progress and counsel them. Nutritionists take into account the client’s present food habits, calorie intake, physical activity in general, food preferences and dislikes, medications they are taking, and overall lifestyle while preparing a diet chart.
“For obese people, we take approximate targets of three to four kilo weight loss every month and customise a plan accordingly and guide them on how to follow the same,” says Saini.
Once the diet chart is prepared and the client is directed on how to follow the same, all that a nutritionist has to do is to check if the clients are following the diet or not and change the diet to modify the calorie intake from time to time. Physicians often refer patients to nutritionists to help cure them through therapeutic diet plans.
“Aligning one’s way of eating to the lifestyle of the person is the biggest challenge. Good nutritionists need to combine food preferences of a client with the diet they recommend. The best way to deal with this is to understand the psyche of the client, counsel them well and ensure results,” suggests Saini.
Building a good reputation in the field is important. The amount of money nutritionists earn depends on their qualifications and recommendations of clients.