If you’re a registered dietitian or nutritionist that provides nutrition and diet counseling for weight management, you have probably spent most of your education and career learning how to be the best counselor you can be. Your training in weight management counseling equips you with the knowledge your clients need to succeed. You strive to be a competent, knowledgeable professional. And while your clients expect this degree of professionalism, they are seeking your services because they want results — they want to lose weight.
While you have surely helped many people during your career, are you helping as many people as you could be? Do you have room in your professional role to be their weight loss coaching guide?
Be a Counselor and a Guide
There’s no question that clients need information. Clients look to you to help sort through the overwhelming glut of diet and weight management information that can be found on the web and on television. If you still want to provide weight management counseling, how can you also position yourself as their guide?
Being a weight loss coaching guide means creating a partnership with your client. Instead of providing detailed information such as an individualized meal plan, a guide should also provide the psychological support your client needs to make real-life changes. While diet counseling includes empirical measurements like fat content, waist circumference, and meal diaries, being a healthy weight management guide includes much more. You should be:
- identifying barriers to change
- providing empathetic support
- giving a critical appraisal of success or failure in weight loss goals
Establish Yourself as a Guide From the First Visit
If your client has never been to a dietitian or has tried nutrition counseling for weight management and failed to achieve maximum results, you should establish yourself as weight loss coaching guide from the first visit. Instead of simply making a clinical assessment of the client’s current health and future goals, use the first visit to establish a rapport with the client. Make it clear that you would like to be a partner in their healthy weight management.
It’s also important to let every client know that change is difficult and small failures are expected as long as overall progress can be made. Many clients are coming to you after they have tried to lose weight on their own. Spend some time exploring what may have worked for short periods of time and what has failed. Find out places where your client has been successful in life, and try to use their accomplishments to develop a comprehensive weight management counseling program. You may not be able to accomplish all of these tasks on the first visit, but if you build a relationship with them, it will help you guide your client in the future.
The Transtheoretical Model of Change
At some point in your education or career, you probably learned about the Transtheoretical Model of Change. It is the theory that describes the stages of change that every person goes through from precontemplation to termination:
- Precontemplation – The client may not even know they have a problem and does not intend to change.
- Contemplation – The client starts to realize they may have a problem and begins considering change.
- Preparation – The client recognizes a problem and intends to take action.
- Action – The client has started to take an active role in solving the problem, by eliminating problem behaviors and/or adding healthy behaviors.
- Maintenance – The client has maintained a level of success for a reasonable period and is avoiding relapse.
- Termination – The client no longer feels a desire to return to the problem state or behavior.
While the Transtheoretical Model of Change is not perfect, it serves as a useful reminder that dietitians, nutritionists, and weight loss professionals should always consider the client’s current mindset when developing weight management programs.
Explaining a detailed program to someone in the precontemplation phase will almost certainly lead to failure. The weight loss coaching guide helps bring the client from the precontemplation phase through the contemplation phase into the preparation phase. It’s at this point that clients will begin being receptive to your weight management nutrition counseling.
Weight Loss Coaching Resources
After you have created a connection with your client and successfully brought them to the Action phase of change, there are several practical tips you can use to coach and guide them through weight loss:
- Identify barriers — don’t shame behaviors. When you consider the client’s road to healthy weight management, identify barriers that can be overcome. Something as simple as how you ask a question can make an enormous difference in tone. For example, consider the same question asked in two different ways:
“Why did you order pizza instead of making your own dinner on Tuesday?”
“What made you decide to order pizza instead of preparing dinner for yourself on Tuesday?”
The first question can be taken as accusatory and could make the client act defensively. The second question asks for the factors that went into making an unhealthy decision. When you ask this question, you act as a guide and help the client problem overcome the barrier that prevents him from preparing healthy meals at home.
- Add the easy things to show early success. Having a client give up fatty foods or simple sugars is a huge shock to the system. Your client has likely spent years to decades making unhealthy food choices. Developing good nutrition habits takes practice. People tend to develop good habits when they get positive reinforcement for successes early on.
One way to establish early success in a weight management counseling program is to add prebiotics. Adding soluble fibers to water or other beverages is an incredibly easy lifestyle change to adopt — certainly easier than cutting fat calories in half or more. Prebiotics such as oligofructose and inulin can help your client feel full, decrease sugar and insulin spikes, change the way microorganisms in the gut metabolize nutrients, and facilitate weight loss.1 Plus, prebiotics are safe in virtually every patient.
- Provide facts and healthy alternatives. As a counselor who provides diet counseling, make sure you state the facts in a professional, nonjudgmental manner. For example, instead of declaring “I don’t like colon cleanses and I don’t think you should start one,” you could present the client with real facts, such as: “Some aggressive bowel cleansing regimens can lead to dehydration and vitamin deficiencies.” You can also point them to healthy alternatives like prebiotics to change the bacteria in the gut from unhealthy to healthy.2
End Each Session as a Guide
As you end each consultation, it’s important to let your client know that you support their healthy weight management goals. Provide sincere praise for successes and reiterate short-term goals. Reinforce the notion that the client is trying to overcome barriers, not overcome some moral deficiency. Let your client know that you understand how difficult the process is and that you’re there to support them every step of the way.
If you have any questions about how to enhance your weight loss coaching program even further with prebiotics, contact the Prebiotin team today.
- Liber A, Szajewska H. Effects of Inulin-Type Fructans on Appetite, Energy Intake, and Body Weight in Children and Adults: Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2013;63(1-2):42-54.
- Quigley EM. Gut bacteria in health and disease. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). Sep 2013;9(9):560-569.