Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I probably should have thought to post something festive before today, but instead it’s coming to you in a day or two. It’s a very tasty cabbage and pasta recipe, which I hope you’ll like.
I wrapped up another community rotation of my internship this past week. This rotation included a lot of group education and a little bit of counseling. In both contexts, I was touched, as I always am, to be reminded of how deeply people care about nutrition and what they eat.
It’s funny: in my nutrition grad program, we received so much guidance on motivating people and helping them to overcome their ambivalence. Motivational interviewing is virtually the only counseling technique we were taught, which I thought was a disservice. I understand why this was the way it was: our program was geared toward group education, rather than individual counseling, and one of the assumptions made was that we’d be working with groups of people who weren’t entirely sold on getting nutrition guidance in the first place–for example, those who have been referred to a dietitian by a primary care provider.
The relentless focus on motivation and “rolling with resistance” always struck me as limited, because my overwhelming experience has been that people are interested in food and strongly motivated to eat better. For a while I wondered if my experience was skewed by the population of folks I’ve crossed paths with as a nutritionist, but now that I’m more than halfway into my internship, I’ve only seen more proof of how much people care and how motivated they are.
From what I can tell, what stands in the way of meaningful change isn’t resistance or ambivalence so much as circumstance. It’s hard—really hard—to change one’s eating habits even when circumstances are working in one’s favor. It’s even harder in the face of life’s many difficulties, including financial hardship, stress, mental illness, family obligations, time constraints, and so on. Even with strong motivation in place, life can and does get in the way.
This isn’t to say that incredible dietary transformations aren’t possible even when circumstance is stacked up against it, nor to suggest that all nutrition patients and clients are strongly motivated. I guess I’m just struck by often people’s desire for change shines through to me.
I’ve seen so many examples in the last week alone, from the patient who broke into tears as she told me about a recent osteoporosis diagnosis (and her confusion about what to eat for bone health) to the patient in her early 90s who explained to me with pride his efforts to cook more vegetarian meals. None of my patients this year have lacked barriers to healthful eating. In spite of that, they care, and they’re doing their best.
This all makes me think about an article I read a few weeks ago, which makes important points about the way we construct and label laziness. I’m linking to it in my reads today. It also reminds me to be compassionate to myself when things stand in the way of what I’d like to do. My mind’s refrain is always “I could have done more,” but it’s often the case that I actually couldn’t have, because circumstances (fatigue, scarcity of time, being distracted by something more urgent) stood in the way. I wanted to do more, which is fine to acknowledge, but it’s different.
Wishing you a peaceful Sunday, with full recognition that you’re doing your best. We all are. Here are some recipes and reads.
Lauren’s split pea soup with cheesy sage dumplings is the definition of comfort food!
I can’t get over how authentic Anastasia’s vegan tofu benedict looks.
I love the texture and color contrast of Stephanie’s smashed chimichurri potatoes.
A perfect weeknight supper recipe for creamy, peanutty noodles and mushrooms.
Finally, how adorable are these bunny-shaped vegan Easter rolls?!
1. Recent research has called into question the idea that eggs raise blood cholesterol, but a new study affirms the case for dietary moderation.
2. I love variety, but I also know the pleasures of a tried-and-true meal. I smiled to read this article on people who eat the same thing every day.
3. Edith Zimmerman grapples with the awareness that happiness is fleeting.
4. This article about California’s wild flower superbloom brought a smile to my face.
5. Finally, Devon Price on why laziness doesn’t exist.
Much love to you this evening, friends. A veggie-packed pasta recipe is coming your way in a day or two.
The first half of this past week flew by, a blur of class and reading and clients and work. The second half screeched to a halt with the arrival of a fall cold and a middle ear infection, which forced me to slow down and spend most of yesterday curled up on my sofa. I was supposed to travel to DC today for my cousin’s baby shower, but, with my first set of midterms coming up this week and more travel on the horizon…
I was at a kirtan at my home yoga studio last night, and while I always love being there, it was different this time, because the close friend and teacher whom I usually go with has moved to another city. A couple mantras in, it felt lovely but not the same without him. I texted him a photo, telling him I was thinking of him and missed him. It’s hard for anything to dampen my spirits during Kirtan, and soon enough I was…
I can’t believe it’s already June—it seems as though last August was only yesterday, and I was staring down the long road of the dietetic internship. Everyone assured me that the year would fly by, and in the aggregate it has, though some of the rotations have felt endless. My current rotation is one of those, which makes the DI finish line of late July feel farther away than it is. The only way out is through, so until this rotation is behind…
I’m drafting this post from a room that’s only a few blocks away from where my old apartment used to be in Washington, D.C.. I’m down here because my cousin’s twin babies were baptized over the weekend, and my mom and I made the trip to celebrate them. It’s a short trip, only two nights. My hope was to come down earlier and spend time catching up with my friends here, but with all of the recent feeling unwell, I wanted to spend…
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Love this post so much Gena!! Really speaks to how amazing you are as a nutritionist because of how open you are. I personally know and have experienced that feeling of life circumstance getting in the way and you’re right, I was almost motivated throughout it all. I believe the way you view it really will make the biggest difference in the lives of your clients. So glad your internship is going so well. Thanks for being you!
Hi Gena, great post and thanks for sharing my split pea soup recipe!
I read and re-read your reflections. I think, for me anyway, that so often I am expecting things to look a certain way that I miss how things actually look. I think about my aunt, who wants (and needs) to lose weight but who is stuck by my uncle who cooks up food (and a lot of it) that she just can’t resist. I wondered for years why she just doesn’t bypass much of what he cooks but didn’t realize until recently that doing so would be very hard, for a number of reasons. She wants to lose weight and eat differently, could be very motivated to do so, but her circumstances which are strong hold her back. So, I think your thoughts underscore what I see and how I feel about what appears on the surface (and pushing square pegs into round holes), positioned against what actually might be going on. Thank you!
I hope your week goes well. Good luck!
Gena, I loved your observations about how deeply people care about nutrition in your experience, and how using different counseling techniques beyond motivation is so important. It speaks to what a good nutrition counselor you are–you listen to your clients, and wisely know that one size does not fit all. Also thank you for the article about people who eat the same thing every day–I loved it and shared it on my blog’s facebook page. xoxo
ps: i’ve read that article on laziness before–it is brilliant and spot on