These days, dietitians are putting more emphasis on mindfulness than calorie counting when it comes to clients’ eating habits—and with valid reason. Mindless eating is a common occurrence in the United States. It’s done while driving, working, scrolling through social media, and even while dining out with friends. Large portions at restaurants also often cause clients to suppress hunger cues, missing their bodies’ fullness signal until it’s too late.
Learning how to be more present at mealtime, honoring hunger/fullness cues, and limiting distractions are great mindful eating techniques RDs can share with clients, and dietitians can encourage clients to meditate to hone these skills.
Meditation: A Big Part of Mindfulness
While “meditation” and “mindfulness” tend to be used interchangeably, they’re related but different concepts. Mindfulness is the bigger idea that meditation falls under. Mindfulness involves different practices, such as eating slowly, checking in on satiety, and awareness of one’s surroundings, while meditation is simply one tool clients can use to be more mindful and present.
Practicing meditation involves calming and quieting the mind to stay present in the moment. Introducing clients to simple meditation techniques can help them master the art of mindfulness. And incorporating elements of meditation into counseling can help clients gain more clarity, be more open during conversations, and increase receptiveness towards change by reducing stress.
Promote Mindfulness and Meditation In Practice
Even if you don’t have certification as a meditation instructor, simple steps—including meditation—to boost your clients’ mindfulness skills can be used in any setting in which you work with them.
Maintain a Positive Mood
As the RD, you set the tone for your clients’ sessions. If you’re rushed, hungry, or in a bad mood, you won’t be able to inspire your client to take a mindful approach. Before each client session, take a few moments for yourself to close your eyes and take three deep breaths. This will help to reset your mind and attitude.
Create a Calming Atmosphere
Design your space to be welcoming and open towards mindfulness. Create a spa-like setting by playing some calming music lightly in the background, spraying or diffusing essential oil (lavender is very calming), and having fresh flowers or flameless candles in the room.
Just as you should take three deep breaths before each session, encourage your clients to do the same. Before jumping right into your session, allow your clients to sit, close their eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Do the breathing with them—clients feel less awkward and are thus more likely to settle their minds when you’re involved.
Most people tend to fear silence, so they start talking too much. Excessive talking isn’t always productive during counseling sessions. Instead, both you and your clients should take a few moments to reflect in silence on certain points discussed to assess progress, determine whether there are additional points to address, and find agreement on next steps.
Encourage clients to journal between sessions about their feelings toward progress. This isn’t the same as a food journal but rather is a chance to reflect on their own experiences, feelings, and attitudes concerning behavior changes. Review journals at sessions or create a system in which clients can share their journals between sessions, such as via a patient portal or private Google Drive.
How will you begin to incorporate elements of mindfulness and meditation into your practice?
— Mandy Enright, MS, RDN, RYT, is the owner of Team with ME: Nutrition & Fitness Consulting, a communications and corporate wellness company based at the Jersey Shore. She’s also a certified 500 Hour Registered Yoga Teacher. A former advertising executive, Mandy combines her business expertise with nutrition knowledge to assist colleagues in building their businesses through branding, advertising, and relationship skills. Learn more about Mandy at www.mandyenright.com, and follow her on social media @mandyenrightRD.