I was recently approached by a writer for Washingtonian.com to serve as the nutrition expert, analyzing a food diary submitted by a reader. Happily, I agreed.
I was even happier when I received the food diary the following day. Although it’s a little nerve-wracking to analyze the diet of someone I have never met and know nothing about their motivation for completing this task, their goals and so on, this diarist provided me very detailed information not only of the foods she ate, but of her mood, preferences, and other things going on in her life at the time. Plus, she provided six days’ worth of information, which is like a goldmine (typically, we ask for 1-3 days, preferably one weekday and one weekend). I spent a fair amount of time looking at what she had written about the foods she ate and preparing my analysis and write-up.
Both the diary and my write-up appeared in their entirety on the blog the day after I completed my task, along with a headline and intro. As soon as I saw the live article, I began anticipating the criticism (yes, I’m my own worst critic). The headline alone highlighted a potential landmine that I didn’t address – the diarist’s affinity for cookies and snack food. In my notes I had a few other critiques that I consciously chose not to address and hoped I wouldn’t get raked over the coals in comments.
Why didn’t I just address everything?
Well, mostly because I recognize that this diarist is human. No one, not even registered dietitians, have perfect diets. There’s always room for improvement, things we can do better, and ways we can live healthier.
Also, it’s my philosophy that it’s easier to do more of the things you’re already doing well than to stop doing things or making changes (like, in this diarist’s case, eliminate her beloved oatmeal chocolate chip cookies). Yes, many of us want to be told to do this and don’t do that, but when it comes right down to actually doing things, once you tell us to stop we want that thing so much more. I’d much rather have someone tell me, “keep doing that, you’re doing great!” than otherwise. Wouldn’t you?
Finally, there’s only so many changes a person can do at once. As a nutrition coach (I hesitate to use the Washingtonian’s term “expert”), I prioritize my recommendations and offer just a couple for people to work on at a time. Faced with too many goals, it’s easy to just throw your hands up and say “forget it!” Better to focus on small steps – the big change will come.
The downside of engaging in this Washingtonian critique is that I don’t have the opportunity to interact with this individual and see if my advice worked for her, or to fine-tune my advice based on her preferences, available time, cooking skills and other variables that inevitably come up in counseling sessions. Maybe she’ll contact me, maybe not – but at the very least I do hope I provided some food for thought not just for her, but for the readers of the blog as well. I’m looking forward to any comments.
My nutrition counseling practice, Enlighten Nutrition, provides individualized nutrition counseling for residents in Northern Virginia – including analyzing people’s diets and coming up with eating plans to help them meet their goals. I also work with businesses and organizations on their nutrition communications and health professional outreach programs.