Behavior change starts with being open, honest and vulnerable
Who is ready to sign up for that?
Yeah, I know there are not many of you who would feel excited and thrilled to start that process.
Long rooted challenges with food are more about a person’s relationship with their bodies, food, and messages that have been internalized throughout life. The challenge is, some of these messages are subconscious, not even known to the person who has them. Sure, there is an understanding that there is “emotionally eating” but the real why is harder to understand. The process of connecting to hidden food messages requires a patient-centered communication approach.
Medical professionals receive extensive training on the science of the body, the processes and disease states. They are trained on how to interpret labs, tests, and reports and then use that information to educate patients on the evidenced-based recommendations to follow. Traditionally, clinicians were not trained well on how to work with patients in a collaborative way that considers all the additional challenges.
I will be speaking on this very topic, “Create Deeper Client Engagement Using Patient-Centered Language” at the Food and Nutrition Conference soon.
This presentation is important to me because I want patients and clinicians to have more meaningful and engaging conversations that allow for the best outcomes. Journeys with results that discover why people resort to using food for emotional comfort or return to old patterned behaviors over time.
Feelings Matter More than the Words
Whether you are a helping professional or a client, you know that all the meaningful knowledge and the understanding of how nutrition impacts health does not always equal the ability to make dietary changes.
For clinicians, providing support and strategies for overcoming struggles and addressing barriers happens best when there is an understanding of the client’s perspective and experience. The professional’s ability to put themselves in the client’s shoes and truly understand the client’s experience requires active listening skills and empathy. By using motivational interviewing, active listening and reflecting responses, the clinician can evoke and clarify the emotions tied with food and wellness behaviors. Developing a good rapport with clients creates a sense of safety to explore the words and actions of clients. A connected patient-provider relationship is a key to being able to dig deeper and target the emotions tied with food decisions and behaviors.
Behaviors and decisions about food are very personal. In order to feel safe enough to disclose secrets about food, a person must trust their providers and feel that they will not be judged.
This process of developing trust starts with the first impression. Consider the language and image presented from the first phone call, click or view of a website and social media accounts. Is there a perception of a partnership? Do the messages, paperwork and overall impression show an ability to work with the unique experiences of the person?
Consider what has helped establish a level of comfort with the people you work with professionally.
Developing a Sense of Comfort Key Considerations
- Rapport building is a process that begins with the acceptance of who a person is.
- Telling and showing clients that they know their bodies best and are the ones in charge of making the decisions that work best for their body is important.
- Create a partnership where the expertise of the professional, and the patient as the expert of their body, are used to jointly work towards a common goal
- Learn the language each person brings to the conversation
- Decode messages and take the journey of change as a partnership
Learning to create an environment of acceptance is key to successful patient outcomes. Professionals have no way of knowing all the unique challenges a person has experienced. Many events a person has endured throughout their lives impacts who the person is and the beliefs they have about where they are in life and what they want and need.
If you want to or are exploring emotional eating, consider that deep down your intuition gives insight into some of the challenges. Over time and with external messages, you tend to lose the connection to the intuition or misinterpret messages. Working with the right professionals for you means that you have a partner to help shine a light on areas with connections that may:
- Explain why you revert to old, seemingly sabotaging food behaviors
- Advance Hunger and fullness attunement
- Improve your nutrient intake and impact on health
- Connect some of the meanings behind food cravings
- Explore subconscious internalized food messages
- Discover conflicting values and messages received from the family of origin impacting your self-care plan
The conversation and partnership along the journey of improved health are what creates success. Clients know their bodies, professionals know their expertise, and a partnership built on mutual respect and sharing of information takes a meaningful journey to improved outcomes.
What approaches have you found to be helpful to create a feeling of support? The support that allows a person to explore and connect the drive for food with the emotional eating challenges.