As someone with a lifelong interest in the relationship between diet and health, I understand the importance of healthy eating. At the same time, I’ve also worked with thousands of people in a variety of settings to address their nutrition needs – from actors to professional athletes to plenty of everyday people.

And whether the goal is to lose weight, gain weight or simply to learn how to eat better – one of the biggest challenges is helping people find their best weight, and a personalized diet plan that they can maintain for life.

Dietitian – A Love of Food in All Aspects of My Life

The path that led to my career as a dietitian wasn’t a straight one. From the time I was a teenager, I had strong interests in gardening, cooking and health. But I was equally interested in writing and literature, and I just wasn’t quite sure how to put it all together.

When I started college at the University of Colorado, I majored in English literature – but an elective course in physiology changed all that. In studying the workings of the human body, I found my passion, and promptly switched my major to biology. And the rest, as they say, is history.

After receiving my bachelor’s degree, I earned a master’s degree in food science and nutrition at Colorado State University. That was followed by a stint at the University of Kansas, where I completed my dietetic internship and became a registered dietitian. Throughout my career, I’ve continued to enhance my knowledge and skills, and have acquired additional credentials as a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, and the honor of becoming a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Often when I first meet someone and mention that I’m a dietitian, they’ll start firing questions at me. Probably the ones I hear most often are, “Is dieting good, or bad?” and, “How do I maintain my weight after I go off my diet?” They’re such general questions, that I often don’t quite know how to answer – partly because we toss around the words “diet” and “dieting” so much that they’ve almost lost their meaning.

People also tell me that they’re confused, too, because there’s so much conflicting nutrition advice floating around. And that’s when I suggest taking a deep breath and relaxing a little bit.

For one thing, you probably already know more about nutrition than you think you do. You know to keep your proteins lean and your fat intake moderate; that you should include plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, and eat more whole grains than refined starches. With just that little bit of knowledge, there are hundreds of ways to put it into practice. And, weight loss and weight maintenance are really two sides to the same coin. The way that you eat when you’re trying to lose weight is pretty much the same diet you’ll want to follow in order to maintain it.

Why Weight Maintenance Is A Lifestyle And Not A New Diet

But just knowing what makes up a healthy diet isn’t enough – you also need to know how to create a way of eating that is uniquely yours and works with your personal preferences and your lifestyle.

There are certainly “good” diets and “bad” diets – we all know people who choose foods carefully and eat well, just as we know others who seem to eat nothing but fast foods and soda.

And, if you need to lose weight, then “dieting” – as in, cutting back on your calories and increasing your activity level – is a good thing. But a lot depends on how you approach your weight loss.

If your weight loss diet and exercise plan is one you can stick with, is well-balanced and leads to a healthy rate of weight loss, then yes, in that case dieting is definitely “good” – and one that is more likely to lead to weight maintenance.

But, if the weight loss plan you’re attempting to follow is unbalanced, if it’s so strict that you can’t stick with it, or if it’s so low in calories that you have no energy to work out or you lose weight too quickly, I’d say that’s “bad.” A plan like that isn’t going to last for long – and your weight is likely to come right back. That’s why establishing an eating plan that works with your lifestyle and gives you an easy approach to weight maintenance is so important.

Personalization is really key to your success. Just because kale is the superfood of the moment, doesn’t mean you have to choke it down if you can’t stand the taste – find another leafy green that you like instead. There’s nothing magical about kale – there are plenty of other greens that offer up a similar nutritional profile. What really matters is the overall quality of your diet. With so many healthy foods out there, there’s no shortage of items to pick and choose from. Simply find the ones you like, and build these foods into your daily diet.

Think about this: there aren’t that many good habits that you get to practice several times a day. But if you eat regular meals and snacks, you’ve got 4 or 5 opportunities every single day to nourish your body properly – and to feel great as a result.

One of the best things about my work with Herbalife is that it gives me the opportunity to help so many people to eat better and lead healthier lives. There’s no “one diet” that everyone should follow; there are many different nutrition paths that can lead to the same destination of good health. And, with the some knowledge and the right tools, my aim is to help you find your own way.

In truth, we’re all on a diet every day. We each have our own dietary habits and patterns that make up our usual “diet.” And the most successful diet is the one that works for you day in and day out. It’s the diet that provides your body with the nutrients it needs. It’s the diet that includes foods that you enjoy eating. It’s a diet that works with your lifestyle. It’s the diet that you can follow for the rest of your life. And it’s yours and yours alone.

Susan Bowerman

Susan BowermanM.S., R.D., CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Sr. Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

Susan Bowerman is the senior director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife Nutrition. She also serves as a chairwoman of the Dietetic Advisory Board (DAB). As a registered dietitian, she educates distributors about our global nutrition philosophy and is responsible for developing nutrition education and training materials.

Bowerman earned a B.S. in Biology with distinction from the University of Colorado and an M.S. in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. She is a fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and holds two board certifications as a specialist in Sports Dietetics and in Obesity and Weight Management. When she is not busy teaching and writing, Susan enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and gardening. Her favorite Herbalife Nutrition products include Simply Probiotic and Herbalife Nutrition Formula 1 Healthy Meal Nutritional Shake Mix Banana Caramel.