The Importance of a Support Team to Your Total Body Diet

By Victoria Shanta Retelny, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

Your need for support is unique to you. Before you leap into assembling a support team to help you embark on your Total Body Diet lifestyle, consider some ways that support teams — which can include many different people like family, friends, co-workers, as well as healthcare professionals — can benefit you. Support teams can

  • Offer guidance and new resources, tips, and tools

  • Be a sounding board to overcome obstacles and setbacks

  • Point out areas of progress (because it’s sometimes hard to see it yourself!)

  • Create new connections for you by providing a new community

  • Foster growth and confidence (as you push past your comfort zone)

  • Help you to create realistic expectations for growth and change

  • Motivate you when boredom or fatigue sets in

Now that you know what a support team can do for you. Look at ways to find one that fits with your personality and lifestyle needs.

Assembling a good healthcare team

Part of your support group can begin with your healthcare team, which can start as one healthcare professional. For example, your initial support can begin with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who can offer you support with making healthful food choices and meal planning. The RDN can then make referrals to other appropriate professionals as needed, such as:

  • Physician/physician’s assistant: Can offer medical support and answer questions based on overall health and disease prevention and management

  • Nurse/nurse practitioner: Can offer medical support and guidance for disease prevention and management

  • Psychologist/counselor: Can offer psychological support through therapy, which includes skill building, goal setting, and work to do at home

  • Personal trainer/exercise physiologist: Can offer exercise support with individualized physical activities that can fit into your lifestyle and assist with disease management and prevention

When a variety of healthcare professionals work together offering their unique skills and expertise, that’s called an interdisciplinary team approach. If you’re working with more than one healthcare professional at a time, there should be open communication among all of you. Each of the healthcare providers should feel free to call, email, or meet with the others to discuss your work together. This establishes continuity of care and keeps everyone on the same page!

Part of finding the right healthcare team is knowing what the best fit is for you. Support teams come in many different packages and all these professionals may not be necessary. It’s good to know what types of professionals are available, but don’t forget that family and friends can offer vital support, too!

Shopping around

Every healthcare professional comes at their work in a unique way and you want to be sure that it’s in agreement with your philosophy from the beginning. Finding a healthcare professional is a bit like dating — not everyone is right for you!

Here are some questions to ask during your initial meeting with your healthcare provider:

  • How often do you want to follow up with me?

  • Can I ask you questions via email as they come up, or would you prefer I save them for face-to-face visits?

  • How many sessions do you require with a typical patient?

  • How do you assess progress in your patients?

  • Do you accept insurance for services? Under the Affordable Care Act, certain preventive services are covered, such as diet counseling for those at high risk for chronic diseases.

  • What is your cancellation policy? There is typically a fee for service if someone cancels within 24 hours.

  • Will we set goals together at every session?

  • Do you allow your patients to take the lead or do you prefer to?

How do you even know where to begin to find healthcare professionals to comprise your Total Body Diet team? There are a number of ways to go about shopping around for a support team. Here are some options:

  • Ask your current healthcare provider for recommendations. Whether you’re asking your doctor for a referral to a clinical psychologist or an RDN, use your current healthcare provider as a multidisciplinary springboard. Primary care doctors are a great resource because they have access to a plethora of providers locally and nationally.

  • Inquire at your local hospital. Hospitals offer in-patient services, as well as outpatient services for people seeking assistance who do not need to be admitted to the hospital. Hospitals also have community relations specialists who organize a plethora of support programs to assist with all facets of healthcare needs and can link you up with departments and provider referrals.

  • Contact your local chamber of commerce. They can assist you with finding local experts in your area. Many expert groups hold monthly roundtable discussion on various health topics for the public to attend. This is an easy and comfortable way to mix and mingle with more than one healthcare provider at a time and gain connections in your community.

  • Ask your local grocery store if there’s a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) on staff. Many supermarkets employ RDNs as part of their team inside the store to point out better products to the customers, highlight recipe ideas, and offer one-on-one nutrition counseling to answer individual questions pertaining to food choices, meal planning, and overall health.

  • Ask your friends and family for referrals. If you feel comfortable inquiring within the close network of people around you, that’s a viable way to find support and assistance. Plus, the people who know you best may be more apt to steer you toward someone who is well suited for you.

  • Use an online referral service. A myriad of web pages are devoted to finding healthcare professionals from every discipline. For example, to locate a local RDN that specializes in what you need, go to the Find an Expert page. You simply search in your area and contact names will come up — it’s that simple.

Don’t get discouraged if right off the bat you aren’t in sync with your healthcare professional. It takes time to develop a working relationship based on mutual trust, respectful communication, and give and take. One or two meetings don’t make or break your success with your support team member. It’s important to give it a little time and learn to lean on your team before you begin.