Tools not rules when working with a nutritionist

On Instagram, I often talk about the concept of tools not rules - but what does it mean?


It is slightly self-explanatory I understand, but when it comes to nutrition I think it’s one of the most important things not only for you as someone healing their relationship to food but also to the nutritionist working with you.

We all like to be told what to do in some ways, it makes life easier to be instructed to eat x and y in these amounts and voila, life changed. But then you’re always reliant on the person giving the information, and if you want to change it for whatever reason you don’t know how to.

That’s the issue with meal plans - except for medical conditions where they are very necessary - for everyday life they’re not the most flexible. Some other reasons rigidity doesn’t always work:

  • It’s not adaptable if you have to work late, or don’t have as much time. Maybe you didn’t go to the store.
  • You may not know why you’re eating what you’re eating.
  • It may not be what you fancy/are craving (sounds like an excuse but if you're not craving something or craving the opposite it can majorly decrease the satisfaction you experience from that meal).
  • We’re natural rebels, and will often not want to eat what we’re told to.


But how do you move away from them without feeling like you’re at sea without a lifeboat? You start to develop the tools you need including:


Why are you doing what you’re doing? For me, this is information about food in terms of how it affects your mood, fullness, energy levels etc. Not a calorie value in sight.


It sounds simple but at the heart of Intuitive Eating is the intuition part. Learning to hone your ability to listen to your internal cues is a big part of this journey and will provide you with all the internal info you need.

The ability to say no and set boundaries - another major one that doesn’t seem nutrition related but is invaluable around how you approach food and how those around you approach your eating.


I am terrible at this so don’t attempt to try, I’m a BBC Good Food gal. But from some nutritionists you’ll get original recipes, I like to signpost.

Effective self-care for you

What soothes you? It may be the typical bubble bath and relaxation, maybe it’s working out. Maybe it’s writing that novel you’ve been thinking about.

An understanding of your feelings

And why you approach them how you do. Especially in relation to how you eat. You may not be 100% comfortable in feeling your feelings, but you start to acknowledge them more. And maybe start to know how to deal with them.


An idea of where you want to be with your relationship to food and movement. This allows you to stand firm when others try and impose their goals onto you.


That you’re doing what’s best for you and listening to your instinct. Nothing else comes close to helping you feel empowered and that you're taking the right action than the confidence that you're in tune with yourself. We all have wobbles in confidence but building it to a place you're confident in your actions is vital.

There are many more - and if you’re building your toolkit let me know any others you feel you're adding. Your toolkit is your own.

By focusing on the tools you have it means you are entirely self-reliant. A scary concept I know, but it means that if for whatever reason you have to stop working with your nutritionist or anything similar you feel that you have a sense of direction and that you can continue working on your relationship with food and movement.

Want to listen to this article? I have a podcast inspired by it.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, Greater London, SE21
Written by Kacie Shoulders, ANutr
London, Greater London, SE21

Kacie Shoulders is an associate nutritionist and yoga teacher based in South London. She takes a HAES approach to working with clients and focuses on intuitive eating and movement.

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