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Live well @OHIO: Eat well, live well

Senior dietetics students counsel community members on how to change eating habits for a healthier lifestyle
Feb 4, 2010
By Bridget Coughlin

Ohio University?s senior dietetics students are giving back to the university and Athens community in a healthy way.

The College of Health and Human Services offers the Nutrition Treatment Program, open to anyone in the surrounding community. It is designed to help individuals live well through a client-specific nutritional plan. The senior dietetics students serve as the counselors.

The program includes four hour-long sessions with the nutrition counselor. The first is vital for determining what the participant will get out of the program. Here is an inside look at the first session from one participant?s Nutrition Treatment experience:

The Counselor: Alex Kennedy
The Participant: Jody Grenert

The Situation: Grenert?s goal is to lose weight. Some challenges unique to his life include that he brews and drinks his own beer at home, is in the habit of skipping breakfast and recently injured his knee, which has kept Grenert from exercising.

When he walks into the counseling room, the atmosphere is private and comfortable. Grenert sits at a small round table with the counselor, one on one. The scales and sample portion sizes are in the background, not a dominant part of the scene. This privacy is important, and it gives participants a sense of security and confidentiality that they can expect from the program.

During the first session, the counselor initially talks about the participant?s goals. Kennedy asks Grenert, "What do you hope to accomplish by participating in this program?"

For some, the goal is to lose weight; others have high cholesterol; still, others are simply looking to eat a more varied diet. In Grenert?s case, he hopes to lose a few pounds.

Some paperwork has to be filled out, but the first session is all about the participant. The counselor may ask, "What is your diet history?" Or, "How are your eating habits? What have you eaten in the last 24 hours? What kinds of foods do you like and dislike?" These questions are all important when it comes time for the counselor to formulate a nutritional plan.

Next, the counselor takes height and weight measurements. The next round of questions asks, "How do you feel about your body image? Are you ready to change your nutrition? What do you want to get out of this program?"

Kennedy gets an idea of Grenert?s personal situation and goals for himself from all of this information. Kennedy then asks Grenert to write a SMART goal. SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Action-Oriented
  • Realistic
  • Timely

After discussing his SMART goal with the counselor, Grenert is given a scale to weigh food and asked to fill out a three-day food diary and hunger scale. The results of this will help Kennedy determine Grenert?s current eating habits and what will need to change for him to reach his goals.

The second session is set for three weeks later. Where does Grenert go from here?

"The big part from here is the food log," said Kennedy. "Once we see that, we can analyze the nutritional aspects and adjust. It?s definitely case by case, so we take it as it comes."

After the first session Kennedy will create a client-specific nutrition plan. This plan is a dietary prescription with food group recommendations. Grenert will have to put it in place himself and see how it works.

Then, counselor and participant work together to adjust the plan based on his or her needs and wants. In order for Grenert to reach his goals, he will have to stick to the plan and be honest during his sessions.

"Checking in is important," said Deborah Murray, the faculty advisor of the program and Assistant Professor of Human and Consumer Sciences. "Having a counselor there with the participant is so different from people being there by themselves. It?s about having someone to hold you accountable."

But the participants aren?t the only ones getting something out of this experience.

"I?m learning as well," said Kennedy. "The client and the counselor grow together. Through this program, we get to put what we learn in the classroom into practice."

To become involved with the program, contact Deborah Murray at murrayd1@ohio.edu. Anyone in the southeast Ohio community is welcomed and invited to participate. The cost of the program is $25 for the four sessions, and it runs fall, winter and spring quarters. The program accepts seven to nine clients per quarter, but Murray emphasizes that they will work hard to make accommodations for anyone who wishes to participate.If you can?t make it to a counseling session this quarter here are some easy tips for getting started on a healthier diet right now:

  • Don?t skip breakfast
  • Drink more water
  • Eat portions the size of the palm of your hand
  • Eat out less
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Get motivated
  • Think about how you can change your routine to avoid fast food and other unhealthy options
  • Have a plan: Think ahead and make sure you take the time to eat right

Published: Feb 4, 2010 8:00 AM


Live Well Eat Well

Counselors with the Nutrition Treatment Program encourage healthy eating habits and work with clients to set measurable goals.

Photographer: Kevin Riddell 

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