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Sharon Price, MS (Nutrition), MBA became passionate about nutrition following her own journey recovering from Lyme disease. She now offers that same personalized counseling to help others navigate the often-complex interplay between food and health— taking a special interest in healthy meals and body composition, gut health, food allergies, and hormone balance. Her goal is to help individuals and families savor good health and enjoy eating well.

Avoiding the “Either-Or” Trap

By Sharon Price, MS (Nutrition), MBA

Sharon Price
MS (Nutrition), MBA

Lifestyle choices can be powerful weapons against chronic disease. But in today’s society, we seem to be bombarded with opportunities to make bad ones. Facing stress, do we deal with it constructively or block it out by consuming too much processed food and alcohol, or by binge-watching TV?

But health choices aren’t always so either-or. Too often, I see nutrition clients who want to do everything I recommend, to the greatest extent, as fast as possible. A good problem to have, right? Not exactly. Because I know that this all-or-nothing mentality can often lead to just that, nothing—once someone burns out on trying to do everything “perfectly.”

Then there are the people I don’t ever see, those who’ve chosen long-term medication over lifestyle and nutrition changes they think will be too difficult. Still others may choose a different all-in decision: some focusing on good nutrition to the exclusion of mainstream medical treatment or others refusing recommended nutritional supplements, believing that all nutrients must come through food.

While these may sound like completely different types of people, each is succumbing to the same either-or perspective. But sometimes, the best choice is to both benefit from a mainstream medical therapy and focus on optimizing nutrition through food and supplements. Sometimes one even strengthens the effectiveness of the other—and that’s the space where I often work.

One client, a bariatric (weight-loss) surgery candidate we’ll call “Brenda,” came to me several months prior to her planned procedure. After struggling with obesity most of her life, Brenda had chosen surgery as her best option to finally get her weight—as well as type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, and high blood pressure—under control.

Insurance approval hinged on several factors, among them nutrition counseling and her ability to lose a certain amount of weight prior to the surgery. At our first meeting, we discussed other major benefits to a nutritional revamp. First, most bariatric procedures inhibit the ability to absorb nutrients. Going into the surgery with a nutritional deficit increases both the risk of surgical complications and the difficulty of achieving nutritional adequacy ever afterwards. As a bonus, the changes Brenda accomplished before her surgery increased her confidence about maintaining those healthier choices in the long-term.

In Brenda’s case, she didn’t choose weight-loss surgery “instead” of going on a diet. She had been unable to succeed with diet and exercise changes alone many times, over many decades. Weight loss surgery wasn’t an either-or choice for Brenda—in fact, it increased her need for both nutritional and lifestyle changes! But it also increased her likelihood of success at losing the weight and keeping it off.

Nutritional change can be one important part of a holistic approach to addressing chronic illness. Sometimes it’s all that’s needed. But even when it’s not, it’s still needed.