Dietitian Tools For Coaching Clients In A Pandemic

by | Sep 26, 2020

During these uncertain times, so many people have been forced out of their daily routines into a new “normal.”

Working from home, workouts from the comfort of your own living room, and the closure of many different businesses have left so many people with feelings of stress and anxiety. 

Life in 2019 looked A LOT different than life today. It’s no surprise that this pandemic has made it EXTREMELY difficult for many to reach their health and fitness goals because of these new challenges that we’re forced to face.

In the Dietitian Nutrition Coaching Certification, we teach our students HOW to address stress FIRST. We figure out the root cause and THEN switch focus to nutrition. 

Stress affects EVERYONE, and it’s safe to say that this pandemic has placed an immense amount of stress on us all.

Stress can be a one-time occurrence, or it can happen repeatedly over a long period of time. It’s crucial to address stress with our clients, and our own lives because each type of stress carries both physical and mental health risks.

Stress management is a wide range of techniques that are used in order to control stress. The overall goal is to improve how we function, day in and day out. So many people turn to food for comfort. Whether it’s out of stress, anxiety, boredom, grief, it’s totally understandable why we may turn to that bowl of ice cream or slice of cake for comfort. 


When we’re stressed out, we turn to food to help solve our problems, or try to get rid of them for the time being. This can leave us with feelings of guilt and remorse. Are you coaching clients as a dietitian nutrition coach or you yourself are looking for solutions? Here are some SIMPLE dietitian tools for how to do nutrition counseling for clients who are dealing with stress.

1: Overeat, have that pizza or a pint of ice cream!

“WHAT?! You said I can have that hot fudge sundae that I’ve been dreaming about?” YUP! You heard me. Teach your clients through online nutrition counseling to use this time of stress to experiment. This will help to identify AWARENESS of triggers and HOW they feel after overeating. 

Successful healthy eating coaches help clients to understand food freedom. 

When figuring out how to start an online nutrition business, it’s always important to tell your clients to give them self permission. 

If you’re allowed to eat a whole cheeseburger, all of the sudden it doesn’t feel as urgent to eat whatever’s in sight. When we ALLOW ourselves to enjoy the foods that we love, we become less likely to binge on a whole sleeve of Oreos. Instead, only having one or two cookies actually sounds like a satisfying compromise. In time it becomes more enjoyable! 

During this experiment, challenge your clients to write down exactly what happened!

What did they eat? How much did they eat? WHY did they eat in the first place? HOW did they feel afterwards? 

Then, ask them to identify any ‘AHA’ moments! 

Maybe they’ll notice that after their zoom conference calls, they head straight for the snack drawer and grab the bag of chips. Maybe then they notice that this is a habit that they’ve been doing EVERY SINGLE DAY for the past month because work has been so stressful. 

Express their feelings instead of bottling them up and try to reframe your problems by using a different perspective. Shift focus from the negative attitude towards work calls and try to focus on the positives. For example, zoom/phone calls can be used as a time to connect with others during the time of social distancing.

Sometimes our triggers are not as obvious. The more we try to become aware of the WHY behind our actions and ADAPT, the easier it becomes to identify them. 

Now, one might not be able to pinpoint exactly what your trigger is, and that’s okay! Have clients try this experiment a few times over. Even if they’re not able to identify the cause behind their stress/anxiety every time, this exercise helps one to become more aware in the future.

Try to avoid or eliminate the unnecessary stressors in your life. Start with turning off the TV, avoiding hot-button topics, and detoxing from social media. Whatever they may be, TAKE CONTROL!

Instead, teach clients to focus on learning more about behaviors and WHY they do the things that they do. I like to keep a pad of paper close by or use my notes in my phone to keep track of my own behaviors! This is how we do effective online nutrition counseling. 

 Try this method out the next time you yourself are feeling stressed and hit reply to let me know what you found out!

2: Actions first, food second 

 In step one we talked about giving clients permission to eat the foods that they choose as an effective dietitian tool, but how about now we try to do a few other actions BEFORE choosing food. 

Choosing something to do right before eating can help to derange the cycle between a trigger and ta behavior.

It’s clear that food can be the most obvious choice when it comes to coping with stress and anxiety. We can’t stop stress from happening because stress is often external to us. The only thing we can do as dietitian business owners is help our clients figure out how to respond to it.

So, before heading for the cupboard or fridge to grab that sweet or salty snack, try…

Drinking a glass of water

Deep breathing

EXERCISE! Go for a short walk, lift weights, ride a bike

Get up and stretch for a bit

Listen to a podcast or some of your favorite music 

Read a book

Whatever it may be, make time for fun and relaxation! After trying one or two of these techniques, check for hunger cues. This dietitian tool can help to identify that maybe you aren’t truly hungry and may offer the same feeling of relief that you got from overeating. Maybe you’re just turning to food to help elevate some of the stress of your everyday life. If you find that afterwards your body is telling you that it’s hungry, then absolutely go eat!

3: Be Kind to Yourself

That’s it my friends. It is SO important to be compassionate towards yourself, and as dietitian nutrition coaches we have to practice what we preach.

Remember that IT’S OKAY to enjoy the foods that we love. Foods should not be labeled as good and bad.

We have been forced out of our normal routines. Nothing about this pandemic is normal. What is normal is that you or your clients might not be eating, exercising, working, or LIVING the same way when looking back before COVID-19 existed .

Constantly feeling bad about feeling anxiety and overwhelm can make the situation worse. In return this can cause frequent overeating as a coping mechanism.

The world is turned upside down, and there is no better time than NOW to start to practice self-love and compassion.

In the Dietitian Nutrition Coaching Certification, we teach our Dietitian Nutrition Coaches to create nutrition protocols that promote a balance. Balance between external goals, healthy relationships with food, and a sustainable lifestyle. 

Stop the negative-talk. Start being kind to your body by honoring your food choices, exercising weekly, and taking time for YOU.


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