Scope of practice for fitness professionals, particularly on diet and nutrition issues, can be a sticky wicket. You may know a lot about diet and nutrition, but where do you draw the line on what you can and cannot share with clients? When should you refer? Two dietitians (Jenna A. Bell, PhD, RD, LD, and Scott Josephson, MS, RD) and two fitness professionals (Nicki Anderson and Brett Klika) met in a panel discussion on this topic at the 2010 IDEA World Fitness Convention™ in August and did their best to clarify the fine line we must walk to stay in scope.
Bell summed up what you can and cannot do in a very concise and simple way: “Make sure your opinion follows expert consensus and guidelines,” she advised. “Provide information that is evidence-based and supported by consensus. Those are the recommendations you can disseminate.” Josephson, a dietitian with a master’s in exercise physiology, concurred with Bell, adding that fitness professionals can identify risks, screen limitations, design programs and refer to practitioners (all from a fitness standpoint). “Don’t diagnose, and don’t prescribe,” he concluded. “You don’t counsel; you coach.”
Simple enough to understand, but what resources are considered solid for finding expert consensus and guidelines?
The “go-to” websites recommended by the panel included the following:
www.mypyramid.gov/—The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid offers personalized eating plans and interactive tools to help you plan or assess your food choices, based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
www.eatright.org/—Powered by the American Dietetic Association (ADA), this resource is for ADA members, the public, the media, students and health professionals.
www.tcolincampbell.org/courses-resources/home/—The T. Colin Campbell Foundation is a nonprofit organization that offers scientific and health information to the public, without influence from industry or commercial interests.
www.consumerlab.com/—This site provides independent test results and information to help consumers and healthcare professionals evaluate health, wellness and nutrition products. It is subscription-fee based. The site’s work in consumer advocacy regarding dietary supplements is one of its hallmarks.
An additional website you might find helpful in these tight economic times was recently redesigned and relaunched by the University of Iowa Extension and focuses on “3 Easy Steps to Healthy Meals: Plan Smart. Shop Smart. Eat Smart.” The site includes useful tips related to the three steps, an excellent database of practical, economical recipes and a SpendSmart blog: www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/.
For a deeper look at this discussion, you can purchase the DVD of the IDEA World Fitness session “The Fine Line: Counseling Clients in Nutrition,” featuring the four panelists named above and moderated by IDEA’s associate editor Ryan Halvorson: www.ideafit.com/fitness-products/the-fine-line-counseling-clients-in-nutrition-panel.