Straying from Advice Giving

IMG_1888I never wanted to be just an “advice-giver”. Dietitians are typically trained to give diet education, create meal plans, and relay food rules about what to eat and what to avoid. Eating is habitual, and habits are hard to break. Thus, a true motivation is required to build momentum for the long haul of change making. Simply put, the conventional formula of meal plans and sheer willpower just aren’t sustainable enough to power long-term change.

I yearned for a more authentic and therapeutic way to communicate with clients, rather than offering a meal plan and hoping for compliance. When I was introduced to Motivational Interviewing (MI) at a beginner workshop led by Susan, I was in awe as the concepts of communication that resonated so deeply with me.

Through my experience in the nutrition field, I’ve come to realize that food is often secondary. The why, how, and what of eating are laden with familial or internal influences that shape behaviors surrounding food. Often, those influences are the principal need for change, not food.

Having a motivational Interviewing conversation can start the process of having a client discover how or when a food issue began.

It may require wading through the sea of ambivalence in order to discover one’s values. Yet once identified, values serve as the springboard for behavior change and go forth to spur eating changes.

As a health-professional in training, I’ve learned that communication is of utmost importance when seeking to mediate change. I feel fortunate for my exposure to this technique so early in my career, as I am able to embark as a new dietitian with a beginner’s mind while putting MI principles into action.

This blog was written by RD intern Kristen Procter