As a nutritionist there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a client’s success. This year has been remarkable for me. Having a large number of people try out paleo eating and hearing their outstanding results has been a thrill.
One highlight though is working with those who are disheartened and unwell. This year I have worked with a few people who have type 2 diabetes – on multiple medications yet still poorly controlled, with blood sugars typically in the region of 20 mmol/l – that’s 360 mg/dl (if you are American). In other words seriously HIGH.
One thing I am big on, is explaining to clients what is going on in their body and how diet can have an impact. These people have already been listening to diabetes nurses and dietitians for years, and they tell me – no they haven’t been eating as they were told, at times they’ve tried but never kept it up. Yet when Paleo / and carbohydrate controlled eating is explained you can see the lights get switched on, as they understand the link between food and their uncontrolled blood sugar, hunger and excess fat. However – the next step is taking on eating in a new way. This takes a change in behaviour and a new mindset. When someone takes this step it is almost a leap of faith and requires something.
What is this shift that has someone go from eating poorly to actually making a change? I think the first thing, is that what I am saying – what paleo eating / low carb eating offers – is a glimmer of hope. (After all they did take the step in coming to see me as they heard this way of eating could help them) As well, I have the stats from real studies and experience and results from real people who have had success to back up what I am saying. What it takes next is trust – that what I am saying is going to work for them too. Then, when a client starts to imagine changing their diet, I see them struggle with switching from excuse to responsibility. I hear it as they talk to me about their past – at first I hear excuses – “It’s hard because…” “My husband isn’t supportive of me…”
I can see the struggle and understand the disheartening experiences of the past. However it comes down to this – and I ask “Are you willing to be 100% responsible for your health and the food that goes into your mouth?” Another discussion I have is looking at the long term – and this concept – ‘What I put in my mouth now reflects my long term commitment.’ So if you eat donuts – what does this say about your commitment to your health, your long term vision? If you give in to your excuses – what does this say about your commitment? Having your long term commitment articulated is really important. I talk a little about mine – what I eat now reflects my commitment to be lean, to be strong, to be healthy and continue this way far into old age. (For me – yes I know I’m vain, but as well as being healthy – looking good drives me, I want to be 60 with a body of a healthy 30 year old!) Being responsible is to eat in a way that reflects that vision, every time you eat. Does this mean you never have treats? Of course not – it’s what you do most of the time that counts, not occasionally, and the treats themselves fit into the commitment. I explain in my case – treats never involve gluten or something that would harm me. That is part of being 100% responsible. (mmm dark chocolate!)
When someone is willing to stand in this place – a shift occurs and challenges are seen in a different way. I’ve noticed that people stop blaming others and circumstances, and even their own bodies, when they are tempted to, or go off track. And when they do go back to an old habit – they right themselves quickly and don’t make an excuse or blame something outside them-self as if they couldn’t control for the botch-up. They will say things to me like – “I had a choice” rather than “I had NO choice” when they ate bread for example.
Seeing the shift – and seeing the results is amazing. It goes like this – I have an initial consultation, I explain the paleo concepts, we work through some of the issues that stop them, we work out some simple doable meals. The client goes away, I’m not quite sure what will happen, and I meet them the next appointment with some anxiety on my part. They come in the room, face lit up, and start talking about what has happened. They tell me they ate the meals we worked out, their blood sugars are now down to 7 mmol/l, (126 mg/dl)! They tell me how the usual temptation came up, and they focused on being responsible and in line with their commitment to their future, and the temptation dissipated. Or they will say – I was out with friends, there was birthday cake – “I made a choice to have a very small piece” or “Even though I felt the pressure to eat some, I explained to my friends it does not work for my health” The other really important aspect is that paleo eating helps people’s minds as well – and they tell me, my energy has improved, my mind feels clearer, I feel happier and more motivated.
Then they say to me – “I am so proud of myself!” (Honestly what more could I ask for?)