“Was it something I said?” “I thought we were getting along.” “They seemed so happy…Why didn’t they return my call?” “Do I smell?”
These are some of the questions I used to ask myself when a client would cancel their appointments with me. Although I’ve always thought of myself as a rather easy-to-talk-to, friendly person, it was hard not to take the cancellations personally. The cancellations were so frequent, and I’m not gonna lie, I really thought it was me, as cliché as that sounds. However, it was only after attending a workshop on “Motivational Interviewing” a while back that I learnt that it wasn’t me. It was them…. and maybe my approach to helping my clients face a new lifestyle change.
At this workshop, I met many other health professionals, including doctors, who were in the same boat as me: why would their patients not listen to their advice or cancel appointments when they knew how much they needed the treatment? The psychologist leading the workshop explained that knowing you need to do something, even in matters of life or death, will not always be enough to motivate someone to change. This is so very true when it comes to eating: we all know that eating more fruits and vegetables and less Double-Stuffed Oreos is good for us, but does that mean we are going to do it? What’s necessary is to find your personal goal or trigger to want to make a change, and good health isn’t necessarily always the answer, despite what we people in healthcare might think.
What the psychologist went on to describe, is that even for motivated people, change takes time. As easy as “eat more fruits and vegetables” may sound, there are many barriers to overcome even to make the smallest of changes. For example, finding the time to buy the fruits and vegetables and remembering to bring them along to work or finding recipes to use them, etc. Sometimes what may have sounded simple doesn’t turn out to be. This, the psychologist went on to explain, can cause clients to cancel since they may feel they have “let you down” and do not wish to disappoint you with their inability to have made the “simplest or easiest” of changes. Clients would often cancel, telling me “Robin, let’s reschedule. I haven’t had a chance to put your advice into practice”. That’s when I realized that I needed to do a better job at setting their expectations.
I needed to make them understand that the first few meetings were just about them understanding their behavior and belief patterns in regard to their health. I also came to see that I would throw too much information out to my clients in just one hour due to my enthusiasm and excitement to improve their health, but in reality, that wasn’t helping them. It was just too much for them to process, because they would think that they had to do all of the things I said by the time they saw me next. I had to make my clients understand that sometimes a little bit of change goes a long way.
What I now know is that it is precisely when clients are doubting their ability to change that they need me the most. We needed to sit down and see exactly why they weren’t able to make the suggested changes and find suitable solutions together. I now take the time to explain from the start that change takes time. That meeting with me once or twice is not going to miraculously change their eating habits that they have accumulated over a lifetime, and that’s ok. We explore the many factors that may be holding them back, be it emotional or environmental. We take time to outline goals and steps that are small, precise and achievable, instead of trying to achieve their whole at once. Now I’m in a happy, committed and healthy relationship with all my nutrition clients.
Robin Glance is the registered dietician at the Energie EnCorps Wellness Centre located in Kirkland, on the West Island of Montreal. She is a McGill graduate of Dietetics and Nutrition and has been practicing clinical nutrition for over nine years. She offers nutritional counseling, customized eating plans, sports nutrition, individual and group weight loss or weight gain plans. Robin empowers her clients through education helping them to take control, eat more mindfully and live more actively! Robin is part of the Energie EnCorps team that promotes healthy living through Yoga, Fitness and Holistic Health. Click here to learn more about our Holistic Nutrition Program and to learn more about Robin or call Energie EnCorps at(514)505-9642.