When I work with clients the misconception is often that I just “give” them a diet, since I am a dietitian after all. Well that can sometimes be true it happens less than 3% of the time. Identifying signs and symptoms to track for health and wellness is a big part of my job.
In order for me to offer my clients the best possible outcomes it’s imperative that I consider the entire person and not just their food intake. And my job isn’t just to help them manage symptoms though sometimes that’s definitely where I may start. It’s actually, for me, to work with my client and help figure out the root cause of the symptom and help eliminate that.
An initial part of my client process is often having them track a few things as they continue their current routine. Here are a few of the things we may be tracking:
If where they are eating, sleeping etc changes during the week that can impact symptoms that affect their food behaviours or health routines – so I will get them to note where they are throughout the day.
We generally walk through this during our initial kickstarter session but as I’ve mentioned before very often the client may share that it’s not a “typical day” so they may record a few weekdays and at least one day of the weekend for me to see if there are patterns of signs or symptoms.
Sleep has a huge impact on health and it’s important to consider it during my wellness appointments. So I often ask clients to track hours of sleep on a daily basis. If they take supplements to help them sleep (or give a better quality of sleep) we track that too.
In my opinion, stress is the most important determinant of health. If you’re working with a practitioner who doesn’t even ask you about your stress level, I’d strongly suggest looking for a different wellness practitioner.
I ask my clients to rate their level of stress throughout the day on a scale of 1 to 10. Sure it’s subjective but you know what a 10 feels like to you. If it’s work stress they may put a W beside it or if it’s personal/family and F. Identifying the stress allows us to see if there’s something that can be added to help manage it.
Not every client tracks bloating but quite often during my intake sessions it comes up as a symptom. No feeling bloated isn’t normal and doesn’t have to impact your quality of life. Again we use a scale of 1 to 10 and track it throughout the day. Wake up not bloated? Great write down 0.
How our bowels are working says a lot about our general health. Tracking bowel movements can involve just stating the time and consistency. Quite often I’ll ask clients to use the Bristol Stool Chart. Have a bowel movement every second day and feeling fine? That may be your normal pattern, no worries.
In my initial phase of working with my clients, I’m not too concerned about the amount or calories consumed. I just want to get a good idea of what they are eating and how often they’re eating.
We can get detailed later if needed but I’ve found over the past 20 years that very few people need to get that detailed. Total truth. Tell me what you’re eating at what time of day.
For some clients I’ll add this on for something to track to help them remember to take their supplements. What supplements a client is taking and why is important for me to know.
Plus I love to educate my clients around what supplements are needed and when they can save some money. Supplements can also interact with prescription medication so this is important too.
As I mentioned on the Healthy Mompreneurs get Wealthy podcast episode 3, I am not currently focusing on “activity” but am including activity on a regular basis. So tracking it can help us see if it affects your sleep or bowel movements (bloating etc). I’m not counting calories burned through exercise here.
Another checkpoint for my clients is to simply check in on your energy level in the morning, midday and end of the day.
How are you feeling? Having an awareness of what’s going on in your body can feel like a foreign thing when we’re focused on “doing” all the time but it’s an important part of getting to your healthiest.
Adequate hydration is key for energy and concentration. Tracking how much you drink during the day and the colour of your urine can help us know if you’re on the right track. It’s one of the healthy habits included in my healthy habits tracker which helps you build on the positive healthy habits that you are already doing.
As you can see there are a lot of things that I may have my clients track but it’s all in the effort to get them to their healthiest. If we change our food intake or wellness plan without first considering what is really going on it’s unlikely that the changes will be maintained long term.
Getting to the root of health behaviours is key and identifying signs and symptoms is the first step in the process. Some clients find an app that they enjoy tracking in and others use a pen and paper. Either method is fine as long as I can take a quick look to identify trends and patterns that can help us build the best health and wellness plan to move forward.