“The fact of the matter is nutrition and training are like two wheels of a bicycle. You cannot be ultimately successful if only one wheel is spinning.”
– Dr. Chris Mohr
In previous legal articles, we have examined the legal fitness wheel; in this article we shall examine the bigger wheel- the nutritional wheel- i.e. the “legal scope of nutritional practice.” Without a clear understanding of your legal scope of nutritional practice, you could miss an important opportunity to provide essential education and nutritional advice to your clients. Equally important, you could be inextricably mired in the practice of two different professions- namely: Nutrition and Dietetics. For many years certification bodies/agencies failed to realize the importance of diet and nutrition and their certifications did not include educational instruction for trainers and coaches. Long ignored by allopathic medicine, the field of nutrition is now recognized as an indispensable pillar of health.
Dietitian vs. Nutritionists
In the last 100 years dieticians have had a legal monopoly on providing dietary advice. However, two important changes have occurred.
AND has introduced a new title called “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist- or RDN” These changes have been introduced in an attempt to add nutrition as part of a dietitian’s’ toolbox. Most consumers are interested in nutrition- not dietetics. Dietitians are licensed health care professionals. AND has been vigorously lobbying legislators in most states and provinces to try to add restrictions to the practice of nutritionists and increase the legal scope of practice of dietitians to corral the field nutrition.
What is the major difference between dietitian and nutritionists?
Dietitians are basically medical professionals that provide “medical nutritional therapy” in clinical/institutional settings. Dietitians are regulated by state or provincial laws, which define their legal scope of practice. Nutritionists are horses of a different legal color. The worldwide nutritional profession is virtually unregulated. Indeedit is self-regulated- similar to the personal training profession. Nutrition is a word, which has only become popular in the last two decades. (Many readers will remember my previous article that analyzed and unmasked the case of Capati vs. Crunch Fitness International Inc.- that was settled out of Court and has zero legal probative value as a legal precedent.) In the legal sense, we are writing on a virtual clean nutritional legal slate. There are no laws—federal, state, or provincial—that govern and/ or regulate the nutritional profession. This means that there are virtually no laws that restrict nutritionists (or personal trainers) from practicing in the nutritional realm. (A few states require nutritionists to obtain an occupational license from a Board of Nutrition).
Nutritional Coaching vs.Nutritional Counseling
As mentioned supra, RD’s are medical professionals who are trained in medical nutritional therapy. Most laws in North America that regulate dietitians as licensed health care providers often use the words “nutritional counseling.” The words “diagnose, treat, prescribe and nutritional counselling” are medical words. Personal trainers should avoid using these words because they are words protected by medical legislation. “Nutritional counseling” denotes the ideas of counseling a bedridden patient about ingesting fluids through an IV tube following surgery; “nutritional
coaching” suggests the idea of advising a client to ditch the junk food, eat whole foods, eat the proper macronutrients, vitamins and minerals etc. The difference between counseling and coaching nutrition is eloquently explained by Lord Sumner who opined: “The difference may be slight in fact- but clear in law.”
The World’s First Nutritional Waiver
As most people know, licensed health care professionals such as dietitians, physicians etc. cannot limit their professional liability through the use of a waiver. Nutritionists however, (as well as personal trainers and coaches) are legally permitted to protect themselves from pesky lawsuits by using a well-constructed waiver. In my book, I have provided the World’s First Nutritional Waiver for Nutritional Coaching Services”. With my template you can make the necessary modifications to this waiver template that should insulate nutritionists and/or personal trainers against lawsuits resulting from injuries allegedly due to bad nutritional advice/ coaching etc. This waiver has been drafted using appropriate legal verbiage, which has been validated and adopted by several American and Canadian Appellate Courts. My legal recommendations for Nutritionists, Trainers, Coaches, etc are:
- Provide Nutritional Coaching Services;
- Use a Nutritional Waiver;
- Double Check with your local friendly legal advisor to verify that your waiver is valid in your state/province.
This legal approach will allow you to enjoy the “fruits” of your profession.
*Extrapolated and synthesized from Mr. Pitt’s latest release “The Personal Trainer’s Legal Bible” (2017) edition to be released in summer 2017.
*** This article is extrapolated from my new book: “The Personal Trainer’s Legal Bible” Revised/Updated (2017) to be published in the autumn of 2017.