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The First, Most Important Step to Helping Teen Clients Eat More Mindfully

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The First, Most Important Step to Helping Teen Clients Eat More Mindfully

By Susan Albers, PsyD, author of Eating Mindfully for Teens

Do you struggle to find ways to help your tween, teenage, or young adult clients to eat healthier and more mindfully? If you are like most health care providers, you know what a challenge it can be! A recent study in the journal Pediatrics reported that dieting has been shown to have detrimental long- and short-term impacts on their emotional and physical well-being, and leaves teens vulnerable to disordered eating. The good news is that mindful eating provides a healthy alternative to dieting that sets up teens for a positive relationship with food. The first step can be to identify how ready your client is to change. Are they ready to take action now, or not even sure that eating is a problem in their life? If you don’t meet your client where they are at, you risk losing their attention and igniting frustration.

Stages of Change: This chart can help you identify how to approach your clients.

STAGE

FOCUS

QUESTION

Precontemplation

The client is not really aware or motivated to change anything about their eating. They have sought assistance because someone else, such as a parent or doctor, has urged them to do so.

At this stage, your task is to help the client become aware of the concern. Ask,
“Why do you think your doctor [or parent] was so concerned about your eating? Have you noticed any negative impacts from mindless eating?”

Contemplation

The client is aware there is an issue but is still thinking about what needs to change.

Focus on the benefits of change. Ask, “If there is something you would want to change about your eating, what would it be?”

Determination

The client knows what needs to change and is starting to form a plan to take action.

Ask, “What steps would need to be taken to make that change happen?”

Action

The client is taking steps and beginning to make changes.

Ask such questions as, “What steps are you working on now? What has been successful. What has been challenging?”

Maintenance

The client is beginning to eat more mindfully, and working on maintaining the changes they’ve made and keeping them going.

Ask, “What is successful in helping you keep the changes you’ve made in place?”

To learn more about mindful eating, see www.eatingmindfully.com and obtain a FREE professional guide at www.eatingmindfully.com/professional.

Susan Albers, PsyD, is a New York Times bestselling author and licensed clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic specializing in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns, and mindfulness. Her work has been quoted in O, The Oprah Magazine; Family Circle; Self; and The Wall Street Journal, and she conducts mindful eating workshops internationally. She was a guest expert on The Today Show and The Dr. Oz Show.