In an Integrative Nurse Coach model, the Nurse Coach explores the complex relationship of nutrition and the meaning of food in one’s life and acknowledges and honors the complexity and totality of the individual. The Nurse Coach listens to the story of how beliefs and food preferences are influenced by one’s cultural, psychological, emotional, spiritual, environmental, genetic, and socioeconomic dimensions that guide food patterns and choices.
CURRENT STATE OF NUTRITION SCIENCE
Nutrition plays a key role in most health conditions today globally ranging from digestive and gastrointestinal disturbances, allergies and food sensitivities, cardio-metabolic disorders, inflammation and pain, fatigue, mood disorders, cognitive function, and immune dysregulation. Food components are no longer viewed merely as providing substances whose absence would produce disease but as having a positive impact on overall health, including physical performance, the aging process, and daily quality of life.
It is common knowledge that many foods produced and manufactured today are processed and denatured, and often depleted of vital nutrients. Animal products are often infused with hormones, antibiotics, and many other chemical byproducts. According to Walter Willet MD. at the Harvard School of Public Health, and excerpted from a Lancet Commission 2020 report;
“Transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts. Global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will need to increase while foods such as red meat and sugar will have to be reduced by more than 50%. A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits.”
The EAT- Lancet Commission 2020, co-chaired by Prof. Walter Willett and Prof Johan Rockström, brought together 19 Commissioners and 18co-authors from 16 countries in various fields including human health, agriculture, political science and environmental sustainability.
With increasing interest by the public on the impact of food on health and wellness, there has been an overwhelming amount of nutrition information available via social media, books, and endless “experts” leading to an exponential increase in many calling themselves “nutritionists” including sports trainers and lay coaches, to name a few. For the majority of the population wanting or needing to change their eating patterns, food choices, and related behaviors to improve their health, they seek guidance, support, and knowledge from a health professional who can also understand their concerns, and health related issues.
Currently, there are several lawsuits pending re: “lay coaches” with little professional training or knowledge in the science of nutrition yet holding themselves out to be nutritionists and experts in the field.
Meanwhile, State Nurse Practice Acts as well as the American Nurses Association, view nutrition assessment and nutrition education within the scope of our nursing practice. Nurses have the expertise and responsibility to ensure that patients and clients’ nutritional needs are met. Providing nutrition assessment, and appropriate nutrition coaching and education is essential to improve healthy eating and subsequent health outcomes.
Nutrition and the Nurse Coach
Integrative Nurse Coaches do not assume the role of a Nutritionist and work in collaboration with other providers and make referrals as needed. To truly understand the role of a Nurse Coach, we need to look to our skills to guide others to self- assess and evaluate their food choices and eating patterns and behaviors as well as emotional triggers that may feed in to their choices.
Nurse Coaches do not place people on “diets” but instead co create food plans that are realistic and attainable. Nurse Coaches use tools including food journals, awareness practices, an Integrative Health and Wellness Assessment questionnaire, and may provide information as nurse educators to engage individuals to become more aware of “how what they eat affects how they feel” and how their choices impact their overall health and quality of life. As Nurse Coaches, we listen to the story. We work with families, communities, and with both individual and group processes.
As Nurse Coaches, we may ask our patients/clients to spend time reflecting on their patterns and behaviors to increase their awareness by planning a day’s menu by asking questions.
6 Nutrition-Integrative Nurse Coaching Questions to get your client thinking:
- What does my body need to enhance wellness?
- What are my past eating patterns?
- Which do I want to keep? Which do I want to change?
- What are my activity levels, and how should I include foods that meet my needs?
- How do I need to plan for psychological factors influences my food choices?
- Which factors, unique to me, influence my food planning?
As the Nurse Coach listens to one’s story, and explores the meaning of food, there is an opportunity to co-create a personalized nutrition plan while the client sets realistic goals and strategies for success.
***NOTE: The International Nurse Coach Association and the Integrative Nurse Coach Academy, in collaboration with the Institute for Functional Medicine will offer an online Nutrition, Functional Medicine, and Integrative Nurse Coaching Program, launching soon***