I was talking to my boyfriend last night who told his doctor about what his diet consists of based on macronutrient (proteins, fats, carbs) amount per day. His healthcare provider had nothing to say or add. They were clearly not well versed on the topic. And I can’t blame them. It isn’t something we are taught (at least in PA school– I cannot speak for medical school)
BUT WHY are we not taught about the one singular thing that sustains us to live? (well that and hydration) on a very basic level. Yet, we are teaching medical providers absolutely nothing about it (that I know of at least–someone correct me if I am wrong :).
What do we learn as first line treatment for EVERYTHING? “diet and lifestyle changes”. Right?!
Yet, America overall is so very sick. What is causing this and how do we on a small individual level begin taking steps to mitigate this issue?
1. Set a positive example
I think that a portion of lack of nutritional and lifestyle counseling comes from either lack of personal knowledge or providers who do not follow the advice they would like to provide their patients.
I’m not suggesting this is always the case or that the majority of health care providers are overweight and know nothing about nutrition. I’m simply suggesting there is a gap. Between what most providers need to know and what knowledge they have.
We need to set an example of responsibility for health and wellness in our own lifestyles so that we are comfortable discussing nutrition and exercise with patients. The best boss I have ever had led by example, and it made me want to work harder and be more of a team player. I know it isn’t exactly the same, but hopefully the concept is appreciated.
2. Put the patient in control
When anyone is approaching change, they determine where they are ready to begin. Meet your patient wherever they are in the change process. Frequently as helpers we seek to “fix” and tell patients how they need to be “fixed”.
I am SO guilty of this! “do this not that” “avoid this and do this”.
Recently, I have taken on some different language.
“What changes are you willing to make to achieve a healthier lifestyle/weight/etc?”
“What are your reasons that are meaningful for you to seek out these changes?
“What goals do you have for your health?”
WHAT IS YOUR “WHY”?
Talking to a patient about exercising 5 days per week when they do none or maybe they don’t WANT to do that is going to only lead to frustration.
Baby steps. I love the quote “slow is smooth and smooth is fast”. Once they are able to make 1 or 2 things they want to make habit and a lifestyle, start suggesting additional small changes. Small things ADD UP!
3. Seek out knowledge
There is an ABUNDANCE of educational materials and courses on nutrition available out there. As providers, maybe we have a responsibility to learn some basics (I know don’t we go through enough school). I am not suggesting we attempt to take on the roll of a clinical dietician or nutritionist.
What is the purpose/function of each macronutrient (protein, fat, carb)? How does each one serve our body and needs in a different way. We need protein, fats AND CARBS (yes you need those) on a CELLULAR LEVEL. Our cell walls are comprised of all three. Our cells make up our tissues, tissues make up our organs and our organ systems make up our WHOLE BODY. NOTE: There are variations of needs for each individual based on coexisting disease, goals, desires and basically how you FEEL. Some people do great eating vegan: good for you. Some people count macronutrients: good for you. Not every way of feeding and honoring our bodies works for each person.
Learn the basics of some of the major types of nutrition programs (macros, paleo, keto, vegan, vegetarian). I am definitely victim to pigeon holing myself into IIFYM (if it fits your macros)– because it is what works for me (disclaimer: this does not mean one eats only donuts because “it fits my macros”). Admittedly, I’ve had a judgemental approach in the past towards other nutritional approaches. Until I realized we are all not the same round peg going into the same round hole. And as long as your nutrition supports your body and wellness, I’m taking the approach of “good for you!”
Personally, the nutritional approach I follow is IIFYM (if it fits your macros). Precision nutrition is the certification that my nutrition coach attained and most of the coaches who work for the company.
PLUG/RECOMMENDATION: if you are interested in learning more about the IIFYM approach visit http://www.workingagainstgravity.com or feel free to message me! (I love to talk nutrition). As an active mover– weight lifter, orange theory, crossfit, hiker, runner, etc etc and health care professional I FULLY endorse their approach and coaching. Their blog also has so much information available for FREE! Definitely check them out (I get nothing for recommending them!)
DISCLAIMER: I am definitely biased towards this approach because it has worked for me. 🙂
There is also a great deal of information available on podcasts which I have branched out to, and they are FREE! I encourage you to listen to nutrition based podcasts and also listen to the ones you may not necessarily agree with. This not only helps gain perspective of a patient or future patient, but also simply because you don’t agree with the entire basis of the program doesn’t mean you can’t take bits and pieces and make them useful 🙂
A simple quote that we can ALL live by no matter what nutritional approach you follow is the following:
“Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much” -Ben Bergeron
I am not advocating veganism or vegetarianism with this concept.
Eat real food.
What does this mean? If it is on a shelf or has an expiration date > 2 weeks– its not real food.
Micronutrients are SO important and vital to maintaining health and wellness. There are micro’s that you can only get from a diet that is rich in veggies! Magnesium, zinc, vitamins, etc etc. Don’t get me wrong I love my steak once in a while, dairy and ALL sources of protein (if you don’t, that is ok, too!)
Not too much.
This means something different for everyone. For most of our patients this can be simplified to prevent being overwhelmed:
1/2 your plate is veggies
1/4 lean protein
1-2 thumb size of healthy fat (nut butter, avocado, egg yolk, etc).
I think if we can all follow those 3 principles and relay them to our patients we might instill some wellness!
4. Encourage wellness instead of treating illness
I listen to a podcast called “Pursuing Health” By crossfit games athlete and now medical doctor, Julie Foucher. On one episode, she discussed where medicine is heading and I LOVE that she said that we are gearing more towards KEEPING PATIENTS WELL instead of treating illness. Instead of incentives for how many patients we see it will be based on quality and wellness.
The problem with this: you can give patients all the information and tools, but if they don’t do the work– will we be getting “dinged” for their illness?
I see both sides. I want to promote wellness, but we cannot FORCE people. I’m interested to see where this is going. Also, definitely check out Julie’s podcast! She was the first CF athlete I cheered for and love seeing what she is doing!
5. Advocate change
This is more of a MACRO (as in large) concept. I would love to hear if people actually THINK nutrition needs to be incorporated and on what level into PA (and/or medical) school curriculum. Are there people out there who encountered nutrition as part of their pre-req’s or in PA/Med school? I’d love to hear experience and/or opinions about this! (Especially because I know I tend to be really biased about wellness/nutrition/exercise 🙂
No one is going to like me for this article. Physicians, PA’s, NP’s, patients… basically all of America is going to hate me.
But, sometimes we need to hear things we don’t like.
I’d like to start by saying that in America we are constantly bombarded with all types of consumption and choices. Society at large has us set up to fail– to over consume in terms of nutrition and finances– and pretty much anything else.
We are not set up to succeed in our health or wellness, which continues to spiral out of control through generations. I read a statistic (several times) stating 80% of America is either obese or overweight. I can’t remember the source; but, I started to pay attention to my patients and the general population at large and I mean– it seems pretty accurate.
Fast food, advertisements, portion sizes… hell even the size of our utensils are grossly enlarged to skew our perception of what we “SHOULD” (trigger word) be consuming and how much of it.
The number of subconscious decisions we make in a day regarding the food we choose to consume and what we spend our money on is basically innumerable.
We live in a society that values quantity and quickness over quality and mindfulness. My response to this is: THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE. It is not something that is going to change on a macro level. It starts with each individual and spreads.
Now, here is the part no one is going to like. We are all responsible for this.
Will power and responsibility is a thing. We are all individually responsible for how we treat our bodies, minds and souls. The nutrition and lifestyle we choose fits into all of these categories. Simply because society does not set us up to succeed does not give us an out to be obese, lazy and victims of our circumstance.
We all have the power to make better choices. Do it.
Health care providers: QUIT skipping the difficult conversations. Patients need to hear that they are obese and what they are doing to their bodies by not honoring them with healthy choices. I’m not suggesting we start bombarding people with “hey you know how overweight you are? do something”. What I am suggesting is that we start having difficult conversations and lead by example.
Is it difficult to sit in front of someone and tell them “you need to lose weight” and have that conversation? Yes. I do it 5-10 times per day. No joke.
If you are skipping over the conversation you are part of the problem and not the solution.
Modern western medicine teaches us in school to treat illness. What I have learned in my time on earth and three years as a medical provider is that you have to learn to teach you patients to honor wellness. That well-being is not a pill, it is not an overnight solution or a crash diet or diet pills (I simply tell people “no” when they ask for them).
Teach your patients wellness. If you don’t know what this means I encourage you to learn. Learn and practice what it means to live a life of mindfulness and wellness. Develop an understanding of proper nutrition– unfortunately we are NOT taught this in school and it is something I have learned through nutrition coaching.
DISCLAIMER: I do not receive financial incentives or anything by promoting them. But by being a part of their group I did develop mindfulness and a nutritional habit that honors my body and wellness. My life changed because of the choice I made to work with WAG (working against gravity).
I encourage all of my colleagues, future colleagues, physicians, nurses— or whoever you are— start with yourself. If you transform yourself and learn, you have the capacity to help and transform another. This change will not occur overnight; but, I encourage everyone to be a part of change on a small scale so that changes at large can occur in the future ❤
I recently started working 1:1 with a nutrition coach. I’ve always been a healthy eater. Recently, I’ve cut out sugar and focused more on healthy foods and timing of nutrition. When I felt I had done all I could on my own I hired a coach for a few months.
Now I’ve weighed some foods before and eyeballed even more. Let me tell you the first time you weigh or measure peanut butter or almond butter you question everything you ever thought you knew. And then you cry just a little inside and out.
I look at the portion sizes people take in and scream and die on the inside. People literally have no idea what they are eating. In turn, their kids also are not learning what they are eating.
One of the women on the facebook page for the nutrition program I follow (Working Against Gravity) posed a question if other Moms in the group worried about what their kids though about them weighing and measuring their food.
At first I was like eeehhh good point. Then I thought a bit deeper. I thought to myself “This is a great teaching opportunity!”
Kids take in so much from their parents. Food, eating habits, nutrition and wellness are no different. I figure it this way, parents who weigh and measure their food can potentially cause the same harm or good as the parents who quadruple the dosing for their children. It is all about the perspective.
The way I look at it is for parents who are healthy and weigh and measure food, they can teach their children about what is necessary in order to properly fuel their bodies and grow up healthy. Teach them what veggies, healthy protein and carbohydrates are and what they do for their bodies and mind.
Not teaching children about healthy portion sizes and food can have just as much if not more a detriment than showing them that it matter. It results in kids growing up not being able to identify what broccoli or cauliflower is, or eating 16oz of pasta when a serving is 1/2 to one cup, eating 10oz of steak or chicken when 2oz gives you 15 grams of protein. 10oz of meat= 75g protein. CRAZY! My daily requirement on any day whether it is a rest day or I’m in the gym being active for 2-3 hours is 120g.
Like I said, people have NO idea what they are eating. As long as we as adults have no idea what we are eating– we pass that same message on to the next generation. I guess my final statement is that we shouldn’t shy away from teaching kids about healthy eating. If they don’t learn to form healthy habits, it will likely result in unhealthy habits and behaviors.