With the NHS on its knees, there’s a growing trend across the UK for people living with obesity, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes to work with private nutritionists, dietitians, and health coaches to reverse the causes of their condition and live healthier happier lives. Whilst there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, there are means of putting the condition into remission through diet, exercise and lifestyle, and private practitioners specialising in this area are seeing great success with their patients.
Type 2 diabetes is increasingly common, affecting millions of people across the world. It is caused when the body stops responding as well to the hormone insulin, leading to damaging high blood sugar levels. There are some genetic links and certain demographics who are more at risk of type 2 diabetes, but the onset can also be significantly affected by lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, sleep, and stress. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes often come on gradually, and some people can live in a prediabetic state, where blood sugar is only slightly raised, for years before it develops into full-blown type 2 diabetes. When left untreated or unmanaged, this can lead to serious health complications such as heart disease, nerve damage, eye damage, and high blood pressure. So, learning how to manage the condition and prevent it from progressing is very important.
What is nutritionist coaching?
Whilst you may have been prescribed medication to help manage your blood sugar, if you’re living with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, you’re likely to have been advised to try to self-manage your condition through diet and lifestyle. How much help you’ve been given to do so will largely depend on what’s available through the NHS in your area. In some cases, all that doctors can do is direct you to a website for basic information on healthy eating. This is where nutrition coaching comes in.
A nutritionist coach works alongside your medical care, providing you with all the information, skills, and support you need to make lasting changes to your lifestyle and meet your goals. They work with a holistic perspective and an understanding that each person comes to the table with a unique story and set of challenges facing them.
For most people, nutrition plays an important role in managing type 2 diabetes. Therefore, a nutrition coach will prioritise helping you to optimise your diet and start with carrying out a comprehensive nutritional assessment to identify your needs. This won’t look the same for everyone; a good nutritionist will be able to look at your individual situation including your current diet, your preferences, and the overall picture of your health to come up with advice and guidance that is tailored to you. This guidance should be clear and comprehensive but not so restrictive that it leads to burnout or disordered eating. They’ll help you establish some clear goals around nutrition and then work with you, at your pace, to achieve them consistently.
An important part of nutrition coaching is understanding the ‘why’ behind the changes you’re making. Your nutrition coach will help you to understand the effects that different foods and nutrients have on your body, both positive and negative. In the context of weight loss, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes, you’re likely to focus on foods and eating patterns that encourage blood-sugar balance and minimise the release of insulin. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas when sugar levels in the blood rise. Insulin facilitates the movement of sugar into cells where it is either used for energy or stored as fat. However, people with type 2 diabetes are said to be ‘insulin resistant’. This means that the cells in their body don’t respond very well to insulin, so the body struggles to keep blood sugar levels at a safe level. Therefore, one of the key strategies for weight loss and blood sugar control is finding ways to minimise spikes in blood sugar after eating. A nutrition coach specialising in type 2 diabetes will have a big bag of tips and tricks to help you achieve this!
Your nutrition coach won’t just focus on your condition. Their overall focus will be helping you to achieve all-round health and wellbeing. To that end, your coaching experience won’t be reduced to weight loss and blood sugar levels. Rather, your nutritionist will guide you to adopt an evidence-based approach towards optimum health, vitality, and longevity. They’ll explore the areas of nutrition, exercise and lifestyle that are associated with good health and help you find ways to integrate these into your lifestyle. The process should never be about the coach forcing you to make changes that you’re not ready for; both parties need to agree on which changes are necessary, and how best to work towards achieving your goals.
Why is nutrition coaching important?
A major goal for a nutrition coach specialising in metabolic health is to empower people with obesity, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes with the tools that they need to make informed decisions about their health. A key aspect of this is that person’s approach to their diet and what they’ll eat every day. Whilst education around healthy eating might be interesting and helpful for a lot of people, the coach will often be more involved in helping you to develop a healthier relationship with food. They’ll help you strive for balance and enjoyment over an overly restrictive approach or ‘all or nothing’ mindset. And they’ll provide you with accountability and the practical tools to build on healthy habits over time.
A nutrition coach won’t just focus on nutrition; they will understand how each aspect of lifestyle might be contributing to your condition and will help you to make improvements in all areas towards better overall health. If you need it, they’ll also support you in improving your ability and confidence in finding, understanding and using the information to make well-informed choices about your overall health. Your coach will be able to chat with you about all aspects of your condition and provide signposting to other health practitioners when you need it.
Nutrition guidance and meal plans
All nutrition coaches are likely to work with the same general guidelines around diet. These include focusing on whole foods over ultra-processed foods, reducing sugar, and eating lots of fresh, brightly coloured vegetables. They will help you optimise your intake of healthy fats and highlight the importance of including a good source of protein with each meal. For many people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the changes they wish to make to their diet represent a massive shift in lifestyle which will take time and perseverance. So, a coach will often provide recipes or sample meal plans as well as tips for meal planning and preparation. They’ll also be on hand regularly to support you and troubleshoot as you persevere with instilling new habits in the kitchen.
For those living with pre or type 2 diabetes, carbohydrates are an important area of focus. Carbohydrates can be categorised in different ways but tend to be vegetable or grain-based and will contain a combination of starch, sugar, and fibre. In general, foods that are higher in fibre will have less of an impact on your blood sugar levels; these include non-starchy vegetables, fruit, and beans. Foods that are high in sugar or starch, and low in fibre, protein and fat will have the highest impact on blood sugar levels so should be carefully limited. A nutrition coach will be able to support you to eat a satisfying, balanced diet, and to combine certain foods to help keep you full for longer and keep your blood sugar levels under control.
Continuous Glucose Monitoring
Interestingly, people can respond quite differently to the same foods. For example, in two women of the same age and weight, 100g of white bread might cause a glucose spike in one but not the other. We don’t know exactly why this is but is most likely a combination of factors. Some nutrition coaches will provide a service that supports your use of a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). A CGM is a device that sticks to your skin and gives you a continuous report of your blood sugar levels. This technology has already revolutionised the lives of people living with type 1 diabetes and is now coming into its own in other areas of health, including type 2 diabetes and weight loss. A nutrition coach will be able to look at your CGM charts alongside a food diary and then help you tailor your diet to optimise your blood sugar balance.
Nutrition Coaching at NUVI
At NUVI, our online nutrition coaches are on hand daily to guide you through your weight loss programme. They work with you in a small and private, virtual group setting where you can benefit from being part of a cohort with similar goals and facing similar challenges. You also have the chance to work with your NUVI coach in a 1-1 setting, via phone or video calls or private messaging. This might be to discuss more personal challenges, or for support in developing a more tailored nutrition plan based on your personal circumstances, preferences, or CGM results. They can also support you with other lifestyle changes including movement and exercise, sleep, stress, and mindset.
At NUVI we’re passionate about helping people with pre and type 2 diabetes to lose weight and take control of their health. Our coaches are professional, friendly, empathetic and highly experienced.
Written by Jessica Uffindell, Senior Nutritional Therapist and Health Coach