The role of a Dietitian in building resilience


The role of a Dietitian in building resilience

When I tell people that I am a dietitian, they assume that my role is all about diets and weight loss. This could not be further from the truth! Dietitians are trained to understand medical conditions and how nutrition can be used to improve, treat and manage them. We are the only nutrition professionals to be regulated by law and are governed by an ethical code to ensure that we always work to the highest standards. The dietetic component of the MRA Executive Resilience Coaching Programme has been endorsed by the British Dietetic Association due to its scientific, relevant and up to date information.

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Dietitians regularly work in hospitals - e.g. artificially feeding patients who are unable to eat on the intensive care ward or preterm infants on the neonatal unit, advising on specific nutrient levels for patients on dialysis, supporting diabetics and stoke patients…the list goes on. This is why you can trust a dietitian’s professional advice. We understand the role of nutrition in keeping your whole body and brain working at its best. So how does my role as a dietitian link into resilience? Well let me start by explaining resilience.

Everybody is talking about resilience nowadays but what actually is it? It comes from the Latin word, ‘resilire’, meaning to rebound and nowadays it is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. MIND, the mental health charity, go one step further by adding that it is the capacity to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances, whilst maintaining a stable mental wellbeing. And Daniel Goleman, a renowned psychologist, describes it as “the rapidity at which you recover from adversity”.

There are so many aspects to resilience and taking the time to focus on them and making changes where necessary can improve your ability to work effectively, efficiently and have a better work-life balance. A win-win for you and your employer. Humans are designed to be resilient and with each passing day we can improve our resilience by learning from our successes and our failures.


At MRA we are clear from our comprehensive research and experience that there are 5 main elements that make up resilience: Awareness, Physical Wellness, Mental Wellness, Thriving, and Meaningful Relationships.

There are lots of tools and armoury that you can use to increase your resilience overall – one key area is your nutritional intake. There is no point in having a good support network (Meaningful Relationships) and strong core values (Awareness) if you are not eating well, falling ill regularly, have high blood pressure and are on the way to becoming diabetic.

As a Dietitian I am a strong advocate of preventive health and this feeds into promoting resilience. If you don’t nourish your body, in the same way as putting the correct fuel in your car, it will not be long before you break down.

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Do you know about your gut microbes? These little guys are crucial for resilience as we now know that they are important for many aspects of your physical and mental health. You may have heard of the gut-brain axis – this exciting area of research is so powerful because it has been shown that these gut microbes are constantly sending messages to the brain, helping to look after your mental wellness and resilience. 

They also help to keep your immune system functioning well – 70% of your immune cells are actually in your gut!  People often wrongly assume that it is just your gut that they are protecting – they are in fact sending messages around your body to protect you from attack by viruses and bacteria, for example in your lungs and urogenital system. There is research to show that these microbes actually impact the health of most organs in your body! 

By eating the correct food to nourish these gut microbes, you can reduce your risk of developing depression, increase your overall mood as well as increase your immunity. However, if you don’t look after these microbes, you will end up with unhealthy ones taking over and with that an increased risk of disease, reduced mental wellness and reduced resilience.

There are also specific micronutrients that have been shown to have beneficial effects on your mental well-being. For example, folate is really important for controlling mood, sleep and anxiety, and 1/3 of the adult population in the UK are at risk of deficiency. Choosing the correct nutritional intake can also reduce your risk of many chronic diseases such as stroke, heart disease, alzheimers and certain cancers.

Everybody is fed up with being told to eat healthily! My role as a dietitian is to make the science of nutrition informative and tangible, so that you can understand and then knowingly choose certain foods that can help you and your specific requirements.

Need to reduce your feelings of stress, need to sleep better, need to become ill less often, need to feel more in control? Nutrition is one of the pillars of resilience – one that you can start to action straight away.

One final thought - one pillar will not hold up the tower, so ensure that as much as you focus on nutrition, you also focus on the other areas of your resilience that need attention. Balance across all 5 areas of resilience is key. Small steps lead to big changes.

Orla Stone, Dietitian, HPC Registered

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