My approach to nutrition counseling

When I first started doing individual counseling, I was excited.  I went to the person’s house armed with all kinds of ideas and suggestions.  I had a binder as thick as a medical record.  My plan was to go through it all and give her my “ideal” diet.  I had labels to decipher, tips for healthy eating and pamphlets to hand out.  However, things didn’t go as I planned.  When I suggested adding nuts to her diet she said that she was allergic to them.  So I crossed that off my list.  Then there was the sweets-I suggested limiting them to three per week, but she insisted that she couldn’t do that because she was used to eating 2-3 sweets per day.  As for fruits and vegetables, her list of likes was limited so that was another issue.  How could I get her to have five or more per day when there were probably only five total that she liked?  Needless to say, I left feeling pretty inadequate as a counselor.

I recently took Adult Education (a great class, by the way).  While taking the class, I came across an article where the author’s concluded, “Effectively educating teachers requires actively viewing adults as unique learners.” (1) I think about this statement and apply it to counseling.  It means to me that all adults are unique learners and before we recommend what they should eat, we should find out what their habits are and go from there.  Encouraging someone to eat healthy is about educating them on the best food choices, however, specifically labeling foods as “bad” might not be the answer.  What needs to happen is that we, as educators, need to get them to want to eat better.  We would be mistaken if we thought that we could train every person we counsel to eat perfect, 100% of the time.  Every person is responsible for educating him or herself as to what they should eat.  Coming to a nutritional professional is a great start.  However, some simply don’t realize that they should do this or choose not to do it.  This reminds me of the quote, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”  Thus, the message that I would propose is, “You and only you are responsible for your health. Take charge and adopt a healthy lifestyle to promote a better quality of life.”

References:

1.  Beavers A. Teachers as Learners: Implications of Adult Education for Professional Development. Journal of Teaching and Learning, 2009; 6(7): 25-30

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