A few observations from the nutrition side of the fitness industry.
1) A nutrition coach assists people to make better food choices for themselves. Their role is to be a good listener, be supportive, and ask questions to get the person to think independently on their own, leading to better habits which in turn leads to better food choices.
2) Nutrition coaches have no hidden agenda other than giving people they work with the tools and knowledge to succeed. If you are "selling" a client your nutrition services and that comes with creams, body wraps, powders and some sort of pyramid program, you're not in the nutrition coaching business to help people, you're #1 is making money, and somewhere after #20 is the client's best interest. Buyer beware.
3) Unless the coach is given permission by the client to use before and after/current photos, those photos are for the sole purpose of the client to visually see their starting point to where they are currently. Often times clients spend much time contemplating the reflection in the mirror daily and do not see the changes made between day one to 3 months down the road.
4) A doctor works with someone to help them find a cure or manage their lifestyle with a disease or auto-immune disorder. Do not confuse the scope of practice between a nutrition coach and a dietician, doctor or medical professional. That $500 health coach or $1000 nutrition coach certification is just that, a certification to be a coach, not to prescribe certain pills, diets or foods. Recommending to someone to eat more fruits and vegetables is not out of scope, pending known food allergies, etc.
5) To the above, a nutrition certification is not equal to 4 years of undergrad and 2+ more years of post-grad education studying nutritional sciences, human biology, chemistry, etc. Cornell and Cal-Berkeley have some of the best programs. YouTube, Reddit, the two books and those blogs you read don't really count.
6) Counting macronutrients can help you get an idea of what's in the food you eat, meaning protein, carbohydrates, fats. Knowing your fiber and sodium intake amounts can be valuable too. Understanding macro's can give someone a baseline of what they are eating volume-wise. After they know this they can increase or lower based on their goals and how they feel.
7) IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) works for some, not for all. In my experience, project managers, engineers, lawyers, nurses and those with professions that require more attention to detail appreciate and can actually enjoy this kind of work. Sometimes, I have found more creative roles, people in human resources and civil work, or someone with four kids and a jam packed schedule find tracking and journaling macro's tedious and annoying and they stop before they get started. Find another approach that works for you, which could be as simple as writing down what you ate. (I am not saying the other jobs do not require attention to detail. I have been keeping tabs of professions and how well macro counting works and this is only a slight trend in my experience, having worked with over a hundred nutrition clients.)
8) Nutrition coaches who have struggled with their own issues, whether nutrition related or not, tend to be great at their job because they're passionate about their work, care for others and want to help people with what they experienced directly or indirectly related to food.
9) Everyone is different and everyone needs different food amounts and sources. Insert "diet" name here. Don't force what works for you onto anyone else. You do not know their genetics, family history, health history or food preferences. And if you do, I hope your consent and liability agreement is rock solid.
10) Foods aren't evil. It is a bit evil for telling people foods are evil. Food is food, it can be healthy, there can be a grey area, and it can be unhealthy. But calling food evil is putting your stamp of disproval on another person’s choice and lifestyle, and in this day and age, that does not fly high. Labeling foods as evil can trigger emotions which can lead to eating disorders, and like client behaviors, everyone comes with a different relationship to food and coaches need to be mindful of that. (Thanks for this, Jen.)
In summary, if you are a nutrition coach, think about why you became involved in this part of the fitness field and what your intentions are. The nutrition coach's #1 goal should be their client’s safety, well-being and delivering the results they want to achieve their goals. Every client hires a coach to lose weight for the long term, not in 21 days/6 weeks/3 months or whatever special program running to generate a massive cash flow for a short period of time. Nutrition clients should be set up with confidence and a path to follow for sustainable progress, not to regain everything back and then need to rehire that same "coach" again because they’ve been brainwashed into believing that one system is the only possible method that works for them. And for the person looking to lose weight, gain weight or eat healthier, do your research. Find out what the majority has to say about the coach or system you’re going to invest in, how much interaction you have access with your coach and what their nutrition philosophy is, along with their background.