Interview with a clinician – Get to know Sarah Maughan, Registered Holistic Nutritionist
Tell me about your education.
My official nutrition schooling is with the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, in Toronto. I completed 1 year certification full-time, following my university degree in Psychology. I decided to move towards a degree in nutrition after I experienced some health concerns of my own. My education included class hours, practice sessions, and real-life, hands-on experience.
I decided to complete an additional certification, and became board-certified in practical holistic nutrition. This was more hands-on hours, and included hours working with people with diabetes, and working with new mothers and their children aged 0-6 months. I had a mentor throughout the whole process, who helped review my case studies and manage my research questions. This additional certification took 2 years to complete. It was really valuable in terms of increasing my professional knowledge, my confidence, and my skill set.
Can you explain the difference between a nutritionist, a holistic nutritionist, and a dietician?
Technically, we do the same thing: we consult people based on their diets. But we have different approaches, and we come from different schools of thought. Although my nutrition schooling was 1 year, I had an undergrad degree before I started – though this actually isn’t mandatory for my schooling. With dietetics, 4 of their years of school are also to complete an undergraduate degree, and 1 year is focused on apprenticeship.
The dietetics program is government regulated, which means that they have to follow the Canada Food Guide, which is a document that shows how many servings of each category of food (grains, dairy, proteins, vegetables and fruits) is recommended for average Canadians. They don’t necessarily teach the quality of the food; for example they would recommend how many servings of grain. We also focus on servings of foods when necessary but from a different perspective. They wouldn’t necessarily explain the importance of absence of preservatives, chemicals, or how to decide which type of beef (corn-fed vs. grass-fed) is healthiest. The average Canadian actually cannot handle the amount of grain on the Canada Food Guide – and some can’t have certain grains made from wheat. The importance is more so on calories from a Dietetic standpoint rather than food quality, individualization (like allergies/sensitivies). They tend to work closely with medical physicians and can work in hospitals providing tube feedings.
We teach how to incorporate real and whole foods into the diet, how to read labels so that you know to avoid artificial ingredients in your foods, and we empower the consumer to make informed decisions. We are considered “cutting edge” in terms of our food philosphies, however it actually is about teaching everyone how to eat the way we were meant to before mega companies came into grocery stores – unprocessed and real food. We are able to design a whole foods based eating plan taking allergies and food sensitivities into account while pairing it to a personal goal, if necessary. We tend to work more closely with naturopathic physicians.
Is there a push right now to regulate the term ‘nutritionist’?
We as a profession have eschewed government regulation in favour of having more independence with our food recommendations. For example, we would be pushed to recommend margarine, which has 10 different manipulated ingredients, compared to butter, which has only cream and potentially salt added. We are covered more and more by insurance and extended health care plans, particularly under the ‘alternative’ section. Our goal is to be as recognized as dieticians, and subsequently as funded. This is why there are currently numerous studies occurring to prove our enormous benefit to the healthfulness of society, and reduce the burden of illness on the health care system.
How would you describe your own personal approach to nutrition?
In a word – relaxed. I never judge anyone coming into my office for their current food choices. It took me years to apply the information that I acquired into my own eating habits. I always look at where that person is, where can we make some changes, and how can I inspire them to adopt those changes. Each individual has their own goal and reason for coming to see me. Are they so close to a heart attack that we need to go at this aggressively? Or is someone simply looking to eat in a more balanced way? This would help determine the timing needed and how closely we have to work together.
I approach each situation with a lot of humour – no one wants to feel chastised for their choices. The emphasis is on what you CAN eat, as opposed to what you shouldn’t.
So your psychology degree has come in handy?!
Yes! LOL! I never used to think that the two were related, but reading a person’s body language during a nutrition session really helps me to see how open they are, or how much support and inspiration someone might need. It helps me to tap in to their reasons for visiting me, and how to best determine what type of approach will work best with them. Some people are very self-motivated, and need very little support. Others need daily support in the form of emails or quick telephone calls to check-in and provide guidance.
My first question in a follow-up is always ‘How are you feeling?’ If someone has lost pounds but they feel bloated, and uncomfortable, or have a heavy fatigue, we need to fix their food choices based on that because no weight loss is worth it if you feel bad. Once they are well, then we can focus on the secondary goals of weight loss or whatever their goal might be. Feeling well is the only way someone can have a good relationship with food and achieve personal goals.
What would you say are the most common reasons that someone comes to see you at Totum?
Here at Totum, the most common reasons are to improve general fitness, and for weight-loss. People are interested in learning how they can improve their strength and endurance by making better food choices.
What would you say are the main reasons you would LIKE people to come in to see you, but most people don’t realize that you could help them with it?
I would like more people to come in who are having physical health problems. For example, if you are getting chronically injured, or you feel like you are in chronic pain, or if you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, nutrition can really help in these instances. I’ve seen it numerous times, that clients come in and their doctors were dumb-founded to see the improvements in their blood work subsequent to making positive changes to their diets. Food can be medicine!
Is it really possible to fit healthy eating into a busy professional’s lifestyle? I mean, really?
Yes! It can be done! It simply involves good planning. You want structure, and planning, and routine as much as possible. Often the most structured you can be is with your morning routine. So before an unexpected business meeting comes up and you miss your lunch, be sure that you’ve left the house with a healthy breakfast under your belt, and that you’ve got healthy food items in your bag or car or desk, that don’t require refrigeration. The better planned you are, the less you need to think about your food choices, and the more you can focus on your job at hand. The busy folks are the ones who will benefit the most from planning and routine with food because the rest of their life is often spontaneous and unpredictable.
If there was one thing that you would like people to change, what would it be?
I would love people to know how to properly read a label, to be able to identify what is actually good for them, and what is a marketing gimmick. This is a big part of what I do, to empower people to learn to make their own healthy decisions. I will actually do this as a separate session with someone, without them having to come in for an assessment because it’s one of the most valuable tools you can have so you don’t need to rely on experts product pushing all the time – empower yourself in the grocery store!
What is one good habit that we should all incorporate daily?
Eat a vegetable before you leave the house in the morning! Add them to your eggs in the morning, to your smoothie, as a snack on the way to work, in your breakfast sandwich. Pre-chop them, and freeze them so that they are ready to go at short notice. The better you eat at breakfast, the better you’ll feel all day! Very cliché for a nutritionist to say but it won’t hurt to give it a try!
To book an appointment with Sarah Maughan please email us at email@example.com or call our front desk 416-979-2449.