How to choose your health practitioner?

In India, the definition of a ‘health/wellness coach’ or a holistic healer’ has so many shades of grey attached to them. I can through this blog clear some of your confusion and hope you will be better equipped to make a decision on how to choose one that suits your needs. A blog is my personal space to air my views, so here goes. 

In India, to be a dietician you need to go through your undergraduate program in nutrition with your first 2 years in Science and then Home Science to become a licensed dietician. This does not necessarily mean, that if you are a licensed dietician, you are a ‘nutritionist,’ ‘health’ or ‘wellness coach.’ This does not also mean your undergraduate degree (affiliated to any University) qualifies you to treat lifestyle diseases. Yes, you do get study nutrition, but the rest of the work happens when you start working and gain experience in the field. 

If you decide to pursue your nutrition studies out of India, you have 2 choices to into a full-time program at a University or an Institute. In my case, because Macrobiotics was being run as a structured program with the person who spearhead Macrobiotics in USA (Michio Kushi) under the banner of an Institute called ‘Kushi Institute,’ I decided to study at this place. As I was clear, I wanted to only study the Macrobiotic approach to lifestyle and health. When I was back in India, I came under the category of a ‘nutritionist’ a term that still remains nebulous, and I am not a licensed dietician. I do have a double Master’s degree, one from the University of Mumbai (Economics), and one from USA (Marquette University) in Marketing Research. Now that I am on the path of pursuing a Ph.D, I decided I should talk to the President of the Dietetics Association as to what my prospects are to get a license. She told me that would not be possible, as my undergraduate is not in Science or Home Science; I will have to take up Economics as a major with a minor in Nutrition (something to that effect), but I still will not get the license. I am sitting on the fence at the moment, wondering what direction to take. I asked her my 14 years of experience in the field, 3 books with an esteemed publisher, some 1000 + cases in lifestyle diseases (across 200 odd conditions including cancer, autoimmune, diabetes and many associated with the gut) stood for nothing. She said, ‘no’ it meant nothing to obtain a license. So, these are the Indian laws for you. 

On the other-hand, India is burgeoning on the health-front in every way. What does the loose definition of a ‘health/wellness coach’ or a ‘holistic healer’ really mean? In reality, a ‘health/wellness coach’ or a ‘holistic healer’ are people who are not nutritionists (but could loosely fall under this category; if she/he chose to use this term – most do not) and definitely not registered dieticians. These terms have been invented in recent times for those who have done online courses with an organization, desiring some kind of studies in the field of nutrition, but want to do it quick and yet be able to practice. Therefore, the use of the word ‘health/wellness coach’ or ‘holistic healer’ is someone may not turn your ailment around, but will on some level help manage your health issue. The ‘health/wellness’ coach or holistic healer’ in India, does not want to use the term ‘nutritionist’ in my opinion; hence to still help people move along in their health journey, they use the term ‘health coach’ or ‘holistic healer.’ 

So, when it comes to you, what exactly should you be looking for? A nutritionist, dietician, health coach, holistic healer, someone who calls themselves an ‘expert’ like many use this term ‘autoimmune disease expert.’ Frankly in India, you shouldn’t just go by these titles when looking for someone for your condition. As these titles, are being used loosely; the government has not been great in getting some regulations in-place for certifications, for those practicing in the field of health. These are the factors you need to keep in-mind, when looking for someone good for yourself – 

  1. Look for someone who has handled your condition and had experience with your condition – for e.g., when clients call me, and have a doubt, I request them to research my expertise in the field.
  2. Ascertain if they have worked on similar cases before – You can do this this by asking them questions like: how many cases have they done (for e.g., in ulcerative colitis, or rheumatoid arthritis, etc.) and what were the results (hoping most of them are transparent about it).
  3. Make sure the person you are looking for is transparent with you wanting to talk to another one of their clients with a similar issue – for e.g., if I have a new Crohn’s disease client inquiring on a consult with me, then I willingly give the number of my current or ex Crohn’s.
  4. Research the person you are going to see the amount of work they have done in the field – let’s say you need someone for your gut health — have the person written or talked at public forums extensively on the subject? Does he/she have books written in the field of gut health; not self-published, but by a reputed publisher?
  5. Look for someone who will deal with you directly – for your health condition and not have assistants handling your problem. For most difficult health ailments: cancer, autoimmune ailments, severe IBS/IBD (irritable bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome) you would want to speak directly to the person who is qualified, and not an assistant, who may just be a graduate or hold a diploma in nutrition.
  6. Does the health practitioner have compassion and is empathetic towards your ailment and condition – this is something you will know when you talk to them. Do he/she give you their personal time to even talk to you, before you actually consult them.
  7. Ask if he/she will be available in case you had a problem that needed an immediate answer? Very often once you are in the system, there are others that take over; this is something you do not want.
  8. Go with your intuition – what do you feel about this person when you talk to them? Your gut instincts will never lie to you. 

Good luck and hope this blog help’s you decide on the right health practitioner for you !!!

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