Can proper nutrition improve my mental health?

When fighting anxiety, stress, or depression you need to have a secure support network and reliable people in your corner. An understanding therapist and trustworthy friends and family are definitely on the top of the list. Someone you may not think about adding to your team is a knowledgeable nutrition coach. It may not seem intuitive at first but having a strong sense of nutrition and how to properly care for your body is a significant need when battling depression. Your mood often hinges on what you eat (think about the last time you were hangry) so making sure that you treat both your mind and your body is essential for your overall wellbeing. So just as you have a great therapist and a strong support network, you may also need a nutrition coach to keep you accountable and help you feel your best.

What is a nutrition coach?

A nutritionist may be a nutrition coach, health coach or wellness coach. Nutrition and health coach certificates are awarded by private institutions and usually don’t require academic schooling in nutrition. In contrast, a registered dietitian is a title accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which requires a bachelor’s degree and supervised dietetics practice. A Health Coach or Nutrition Coach (the terms are used interchangeably) is a supportive mentor and wellness authority helping clients feel their best through food & lifestyle changes by tailoring individualized wellness programs to meet their clients’ needs. These certifications are offered by a wide variety of sources, such as the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, American Council on Exercise and National Association for Fitness Certification. To become a nutrition or health coach, you are required to read nutrition material or attend a series of classes and take a comprehensive exam. Some certification bodies require work experience or an associates degree in addition to the above requirements while others do not.

Do I need a coach?

Not necessarily; there are countless books and blog posts about nutrition and eating clean that can help you make good choices. You can self-implement a diet and exercise regime and track your progress via a health app or journal. However, for each piece of good advice out there, there are two suggestions that confusing, unhealthy, unhelpful or just plain wrong. When treating depression or anxiety, adding more strife in your life is definitely not a good idea so if the idea of going it alone is stressing you out, having a health coach on your team is a wonderful idea. So if you’re busy, overworked, unsure of what to eat or are having trouble getting results on your own, a coach may be just what you need to see a positive change.

Fighting depression is a battle that takes a healthy mind and body and a great team to support you. Adding a nutrition coach may be the final piece of the puzzle that helps you treat your symptoms for good.

Dr. Jeffrey Ditzell is a Psychiatrist in New York City and offers nutrition coaching in the New York City area.