The following is a write-up that I authored for Health Dialog's company blog. Just a little glimpse of my career as a Registered Dietitian Health Coach.
A wide array of people can benefit from talking with a Registered Dietitian Health Coach. Those managing weight, those concerned about their child’s eating habits, pregnant women, elderly people with unexpected weight loss and of course, those with cardiometabolic risk or chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, kidney disease and heart disease, which are all heavily influenced by diet. Our role though is more than just teaching people about diet. We determine what a member’s weaknesses are and guide them in creating goals from these weaknesses. We help them figure out how to combat any potential barriers. Being a Health Coach is about meeting a member where they’re at. It’s both education and facilitation of goal-setting. My favorite question on an initial call with a member, after assessing their knowledge of the diet they are setting out to follow, is “What is your biggest weakness?” Everyone has one, and from there, a goal is born. It’s also very important to make sure the member is confident that their goal is realistic. “Can you see yourself following this goal long-term…for the rest of your life?” Some people think this is an odd question, but if they cannot see themselves following a particular eating or exercise behavior long-term, then it’s unlikely to have a positive outcome where long-term weight management or blood sugar control is concerned.
There are a few specific tips and tricks that tend to be helpful for the majority of the members we receive referrals for, meaning those desiring weight loss and/or controlling diabetes; A big one that’s emphasized in our Wellness Dialog Weight Loss Toolkit is focusing on fruits and vegetables. You’re focusing on ADDING something to your diet, versus subtracting yet you end up subtracting other things, less healthy things to make way for the fruits and vegetables (the lowest-calorie food groups. Therefore, you’re filling up on fewer calories. Also, really getting in touch with your hunger signals and pin-pointing other reasons, aside from physical hunger that you may be eating. Emotional eating is extremely common. Learning to differentiate between the types of hunger (physical and emotional) and learning to redirect attention to other activities when emotionally hungry can set the stage for long-term success with managing weight. Another tip is the importance of exercise. Choose something you truly ENJOY doing. Be creative! Figure out what time of day you KNOW you can fit exercise in, even if it’s just 10-15 minutes. Every bit counts. Lastly, writing things down can be very helpful. Tracking what you’re eating helps to bring awareness to eating habits and make you think twice about what you’re putting in your mouth. It can also make you realize potential reasons you’re not losing weight or achieving other goals by being able to look at the “big picture,” while looking back at what you’ve eaten over the past week or two.
Health coaching goes above and beyond educating. It’s advocating, motivating and empowering people to take charge of their health. It’s quite a rewarding job to be a Registered Dietitian Health Coach and to be able to truly help people achieve better health.