How To Help Patients Make Health Changes That Stick

Kayli Dice August 8, 2019
How To Help Patients Make Health Changes That Stick
Kayli Dice
As a Registered Dietitian and former personal chef, Kayli deeply understands the power of food-as-medicine. She holds a Masters in Nutrition & Physical Performance and has worked with hundreds of people to prevent and reverse chronic disease through changing their eating habits.

As healthcare providers, we strive to help our patients find health, wellness, and ultimately⏤ happiness. Health is achieved through various means but among them, behavior change is one of the most effective and powerful journeys our patients can take. Behavior change is the process of how our patients reach goals, and it is just that⏤a process. Processes contain both improvements and relapses; however, with the right tools we can better support our patients in shifting their habits and achieving their goals. 

Aim for small changes

Creating behavior change is no easy feat, so having a set action plan is a helpful and often necessary step. The plan should identify small, attainable changes rather than one large change. This article from the Amerian Journal of Clinical Nutrition on the behavioral treatment of obesity states that “the more specific the goal, the better.” We can set our patients up for success from the very beginning by helping them break down their larger goal into specific, attainable, short-term goals that serve as stepping stones. In other words, supporting our patients in identifying small changes that match their lifestyle creates the foundation for bigger ones. 

Focus on the process rather than the outcome 

Another important aspect of behavior change is to focus on the process instead of on the goal. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear explains that a goal is just an outcome, but a system or process encompasses all the small habits that lead to a particular outcome. When our patients are faced with changing a habit, we can help them identify the process that will lead to their desired goal, and then guide them in implementing that process in their day-to-day lives. For example, if a patient wants to lower their blood pressure with dietary changes, we can help them decide how they will create a meal plan and make their grocery list for the upcoming week, and when they will buy groceries and cook healthy meals.

Establish a plan for accountability 

Throughout the process of behavior change, we are our patient’s guide, supporter and source of accountability - which is another important piece to behavior change. The accountability we provide can translate to success for our patients. One study found that over 70% of people who sent weekly progress updates to someone reported goal achievement compared to just 35% of people who kept their goals to themselves. During a first visit, establishing and documenting a plan for accountability (such as scheduling follow-up visits or remote monitoring) can make a significant difference in a person’s ability to make lasting changes by providing continued support to stay on course.

Software to support behavior change

Behavior change is as individualized as our food preferences; different techniques work for everyone. This is where our mission aligns with yours, the healthcare provider, to support every patient on their unique path to achieving their goals. We purposefully engineered LighterPRO to facilitate behavior change. Set your patients up for success with their very own nutrition program, customized perfectly to address their individual health needs and food preferences. Small changes and weekly progression are encouraged with the ability to plan 1, 7, or all 21 meals in any given week. LighterPRO helps establish new systems that lead to long-term change by creating plans your patients can follow, helping them build cooking skills, and creating new grocery shopping habits. Follow-up and accountability are also a key part of LighterPRO. Patients easily track their meals right in their meal plan, giving you a window into their progress from your dashboard. If you want to learn more about how we can support you and your meaningful work, please reach out.

For further reading on guiding patients toward their goals, here are two of my favorite books on the topic: Atomic Habits by James Clear and the Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Both titles dive deep into the process of implementing change. I hope they inspire you to cultivate effective and powerful behavior change techniques with your patients alongside LighterPRO!

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