Overcoming the Top 3 Roadblocks to Healthier Eating
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Lessons learned after close to 20 years as a dietitian

If you’ve felt stuck when it comes to knowing you should eat better but struggle to start or sustain changes in your diet, you are not alone. After close to 20 years of experience as a Registered Dietitian, I’ve had the chance to observe thousands of individual’s eating habits and look at a wide range of nutrition and behaviour-change research on best practices. Here are my top three success principles on how to move forward for a healthier diet for life.

Overcoming the top 3 roadblocks to healthier eating

WATCH the Facebook LIVE video here:


1. You don’t need a diet, you need a lifestyle    Andrea Holwegner as published in Calgary Herald Newspaper

For the clients seen by dietitians in my nutrition counselling practice for a wide range of goals, one thing is for certain. There are many unnecessary food restrictions. As dietitians, we ironically spend far more time adding foods back into our clients’ diets than taking things out. 

There are no bad foods, only bad overall diets. Restriction usually triggers overconsumption and feelings of guilt and failure. Instead, create space for including as much variety as possible to help you live a good life. You can eat anything, just not everything; it’s about being intentional about your choices. 

Science has demonstrated there is no one best diet. Sure, we have some common best practices (such as eating lots of vegetables), but the best eating plan is the one you will actually follow. This has much to do with what I call your “food personality.” You can achieve good health, energy and move towards your personal best weight:

  • both as a vegetarian or including animal-based foods
  • with limited cooking skill or as a savvy home cook
  • as someone that adores meal planning or someone that is not a natural planner
  • someone time-strapped or with plenty of time

Repel any eating regime (a diet) that suggest there is only one way to achieve success. While diets are appealing because they make decision-making simple (at least at first), they don’t actually fit into real life and therefore sustainability is always a challenge. You don’t need a diet, you need a customized lifestyle that suits your food personality and family situation.

2. You need both the WHAT and the HOW

Knowledge doesn’t necessarily equal action. Once you have a good sense as to what foods are healthy to eat, what trips most of our clients up is the “how” to actually do it. Many of our clients underestimate the power of creating replicable systems to help simplify and speed overall decision-making. Without how-to systems, all your healthy eating knowledge is doomed to be implemented, unnecessary time is spent and the workload can never be shared.

Here are some of the things that are important to explore:

  • when to eat on weekdays, weekends and for shiftwork if needed
  • how much to eat (balancing healthful foods chosen for nutrition as well as soulful foods chosen for taste and fun)
  • breakfast, lunch, supper and snack ideas for home (including backup plans that work for changing schedules and time demands)
  • a supper system for meal planning (that works even for people who despise planning)
  • how meal ideas and recipes are simply sorted and used (hard copies or electronic)
  • reusable fast grocery shopping list (hard copy or electronic)
  • food choices and success tips for on-the-go, at work or for travel

3. You need to explore the WHY

Any plan that does not provide support for the other non-nutrition reasons we eat is simply doing you a disservice. You are not flawed if you have not been able to stick to a plan, the system you followed was flawed. We eat for many reasons outside of nutrition, including emotional triggers as well as in response to sensory cravings and learned behaviours from our upbringing, culture and environment.   

Some of the knowledge and tools that are very helpful include:

  • cognitive behavioural approaches to eating
  • psychology and habit formation research
  • motivation, accountability and goal setting tools
  • intuitive eating and mindfulness

Nutrition and lifestyle change is always a messy mix of successes and failures. Dietitians see clients’ failures as helpful so we know where to go next or what tool or strategy might be a better fit. To take a closer look at all the important aspects of building a healthy diet you can live with for life, download my Personal Nutrition Scorecard:  www.healthstandnutrition.com/scorecard

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Want to see more? Check out Andrea’s Facebook Live Video where she speaks about this topic!  www.facebook.com/chocoholicRD


Canada nutrition expert Andrea Holwegner “the chocoholic dietitian” and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. leads a team of Calgary nutritionists specializing in nutrition counselling for sustainable change since 2000.  She is a workplace wellness expert, professional speaker and online nutrition course creator with an award-winning blog and popular free monthly e-newsletter at www.healthstandnutrition.com.  Twitter: @chocoholicRD.  Facebook: @chocoholicRD  Instagram: @chocoholicrd

As originally printed in The Calgary Herald

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Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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