How my nutrition counseling practice is different...
How my nutrition counseling practice is different from other health professionals, and a little bit about my philosophy —
Every time I meet with a new client, I try my very best to explain how the counseling process works. I am up front and center about what they can expect, and if you know me, you know I don’t beat around the bush! Up until recently though, I realized that this discussion actually motivates my clients and excites them for the work ahead. Truly I understand that my approach is even a relief for many, because they are so sick of dieting and attempting to reach their health goals without success. So, I decided I needed to turn this into a blog post so that all potential clients can get an idea about how things are going work. Not only does it motivate clients, but it’s important for me to be upfront about my philosophy regarding healthy living. You’ll see I practice a non-diet approach, so any time a person is looking to “cut out foods” to lose weight – they won’t find that type of BS here. I believe whole heartedly that healthy living is about what works for you and that you can have your cake and eat it too!
There are several traits when it comes to my practice, and I tried to sum them up for you.
1. I never rush my clients.
We’ve all been there – it seems like the doctor rushes through an appointment to address any concerns. Thirty minutes fly by and you’re left feeling confused or frustrated. And sometimes you do get lucky – you’re able to meet with a doctor or other healthcare professional for longer than normal but – you waited for over an hour in the waiting room because the doctor overbooks every time! This is one thing I cannot stand personally, and one of the reasons why I take the time to sit with clients and never book multiple sessions within a day. This allows me ample time to sit and chat with each client for the time we both need. Health behavior is something that takes time, and it does take a lot of time to get to know my clients in order to help them reach their goals. I’ve met with some clients for over two hours during the initial consultation – way beyond what the average professional does. Furthermore, I have an “open door” policy, where I give my clients the liberty to contact me at any time of the day to reach out for questions or motivation. Open door policy might sound silly, but it’s important to me that my clients know I am there for them at all times.
2. I use an “anti-diet and HAES” approach.
Perhaps the most important element regarding my practice is the approach I use. I can write an entire blog post for each of these, so I’m going to keep this as short as I can! For those of you who don’t know, HAES stands for “Health At Every Size” – and this is where we focus entirely on creating behaviors that will positively influence health (like improving digestion, reconnecting with your internal satiety cues, improving energy levels, etc) and taking weight and body image off the table. Yes - that means forgetting about your weight goals for a second.. gasp! Honestly, who gives a crap if you’re at your “goal weight” or “look good” if you feel like crap?! There is a lot of research showing the success of focusing on health behaviors rather than body image or “numbers” to achieve a healthy body and mind. Furthermore, conventional dieting techniques NEVER FREAKING WORK – EVER! All too often I see people wrapped up in “diet culture” – where they have been trained (literally) to think and feel a certain way about food and body image in an unhealthy way. Think “weight loss” and images of cutting calories, eating less, doing a detox and exercising X times a week come to mind. These behaviors often lead to disordered eating and sometimes even a full-blown eating disorder. (Side note – if you would counsel an individual with an eating disorder, would you tell them to cut calories, exercise more, or take a detox pill?? I sure as hell hope not, and exactly why these same recommendations should not be given to anyone.) Sometimes it’s not about doing LESS, it’s about doing MORE – more healthy foods that we like, more fiber, more movement that we genuinely enjoy doing, more time off from work, more time with family and friends. That being said, I do preach less calorie counting, less starvation, and less restriction. Yo-yo dieting and cutting out your favorite foods are out, friends. You can have your cake and eat it too. It’s time to find a way of living that you can stick with and feel good about. This approach I use can be difficult for some clients to fathom, especially those who only know how to count calories, eat less, and “diet”. This is one of the reasons why I always let my clients know the process is going to take a lot longer than they might realize. We work together to establish realistic and long-lasting changes that are going to benefit them today, tomorrow, and 10 years from now. Remember, whatever habits you have today (whether good or bad) did not happen overnight. At the end of the day, my clients’ health is my top priority – and it’s my job to make sure my clients do not sacrifice their health on the inside in order to “look good” from the outside. If you’re interested in reaching your goals with trendy, quick fixes, this is not the place, sorry!
3. Everything is 100% personalized for my clients.
While there are “general” healthy guidelines to follow for the average person, there is not “one perfect way” to health – there are actually many different paths to living a healthy lifestyle. We all know that whole foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, daily physical activity and the like are health promoting behaviors, and for the most part we know which behaviors or foods are not health promoting. But does that mean each of us needs to eat a cup of broccoli and go for a jog every day? Do each of us need to go to sleep at 10pm and wake up at 6am??? No.. we fit in foods, physical activity, and certain behaviors that work for YOU. For instance, if I have a client that eats out for most of their meals, I clearly educate on food quality but more importantly I teach them how to choose the healthiest options from the menu and how to balance their choices. If you don’t enjoy eating salads, you shouldn’t have to eat salads! Trust me, there are so many opportunities to eat and live healthy! I don’t think even know how to give “cookie cutter” recommendations to my clients. In order to be successful, we need to figure out what is going to work for you.
4. All recommendations and advice are flexible.
Conventional dieting techniques are rigid – “do this, do that, eat this amount of food at this time, use MyFitness Pal to calculate your meals, get 8 hours of sleep a night, get in 30 minutes of weight training 3 times a week….” I can keep going! If you can’t keep up with any of these guidelines you automatically feel failure. Another problem with these recommendations is that they are cookie cutter, and I already mentioned before that I don’t do this and that everything is personalized. This is essentially why many “diets” don’t work and why they are short lived in the first place – because they are super unrealistic to maintain! This requires some trial and error on both of our parts during the counseling experience. While my clients set goals for themselves, we need to figure out what is going to work or not work for them. In order to create change that will last long term, we need to look at so many different angles, and this requires the opposite of being rigid! Believe it or not, this is often “comforting” for my clients – when they can finally experience what it’s like to live in a way that works for them personally.
5. Empathy is key!
A good healthcare professional will never, ever judge you or make you think anything less of yourself. Food, health, and nutrition is extremely complex, and any time a healthcare professional makes you feel inadequate or unimportant, do not waste your time with them! There are plenty of other professionals out there that will genuinely support you every bit of the way. Each person I work with is so unique and this is something I respect (and love!) about the job that I do. It keeps it interesting, it keeps in complex, and I learn something new from every single one of my clients. I appreciate your level of knowledge when it comes to health – no matter where that is. Beyond that, I am a person too with my own personal health needs, goals, and I have often “been there” too. I treat my clients how I would like to be treated. Confidentiality, flexibility in payment plans, and even letting my clients share as much (or as little) as they want. I’m here for support!
6. I’m a “traveling dietitian.”
One of the disadvantages of having your own practice is the expensive overhead that comes with it – or not! For now, I work from home and I travel to meet clients, often times at a local Whole Foods or at their home. Even though my practice is based in Fort Lauderdale, I often travel to several areas in South Florida to meet my clients where they are. I also do virtual consults (sessions are held through video chat) – for those clients just a little too far to meet in person!
I named my practice Wellness Living and Nutrition for a reason – because even though health is often a reflection of diet, there are so many more components that influence our health aside from food: stress management, emotional coping skills, quality of relationships, financial limitations, work/ job satisfaction, physical activity….. Although I address diet with the majority of my clients, I want them to live well and feel their best, and that involves so much more than nutrition education!